A Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli was observed feeding from tethered bait deployed to attract Great White Sharks Carcharodon carcharias to a tourist vessel near Dyer Island off South Africa’s southern coast on 8 April. It sustained two wounds to its left side when a Great White approached the bait. The bird, a juvenile by its all-dark plumage, was then captured in a scoop net and taken to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary’s newly opened rehabilitation centre in Gansbaai (click here). The sanctuary is a project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.
Following three stitches by a vet the bird is now doing (and eating) well in temporary captivity.
UPDATE: The bird was released to sea on 15 May at a mass of 4.6 kg, having gained 1.05 kg in captivity.
The shark approaches the bait - and the giant petrel, photograph by Jeremy Miller
The wounded giant petrel in captivity, photographs courtesy of the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary
Great White Sharks are infrequent predators of seabirds around Dyer Island, with only a couple of attacks reported on African Penguins Spheniscus demersus and Kelp Gulls Larus dominicanus in one study, so it seems likely the shark in this instance was going for the bait, rather than for the bird. Two other studies have reported penguins and gulls as prey of Great White Sharks in South African waters.
Click here to watch a video of Tiger Sharks C. taurus attacking fledgling Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis.
With thanks to Wilfred Chivell for information.
Bass, A.J., D’aurbrey, J.D. & Kitnasamy, N. 1975. Sharks of the east coast of southern Africa. The families Odontaspididae. Scapanorhynchidae, Isuridae. Cetorhinidae. Alopiidae and Rhiniodontidae. Investigational Reports of the Oceanographic Research Institute 39: 1-102.
Johnson, R. L., Venter, A., Bester, M.N. & Oosthuizen, W.H. 2006. Seabird predation by white shark Carcharodon carcharias and Cape fur seal Arctocephalus pusillus pusillusat Dyer Island. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 36: 23-32.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 April 2015, updated 14 July 2015