Considering the other side of a “terrifying” incident

Sharks are powerful, graceful, and equal parts beautiful and terrifying. It’s no wonder that humans are attracted to them, and so many choose to get up close to see the magnificent animals.

The commercial success of Shark Week is based on this attraction, as is the booming shark encounter ecotourism industry.

But when conflict happens – that is, interactions that don’t go as planned – the intelligence, self-awareness, and respect gets thrown out of the cage. A video filmed off the coast of Mexico that is making the rounds illustrates just how this dichotomy can happen.

Clearly, something went wrong with the “shark proof” dive cage. But what is shocking is that the shark, clearly distressed and injured (blood can be seen falling from his gills), is not considered by the people on the boat or in the subsequent media and social media reports.

Consider the shark’s perspective: he’s hungry, and has a large piece of tuna in front of him. As he attempts to eat it, he hits something metal and unnatural to him – in his home. He pushes forward to get past it, only find himself enclosed in a cage – something not only unnatural, but highly dangerous and truly terrifying. Fortunately, he was able to escape, after horrifying seconds of thrashing that caused him to injure himself.

Of course we’re glad the diver in the cage is uninjured, and it’s likely that injuries sustained by the large shark were relatively minor, in the long-run. But it’s an important reminder that in so-called “terrifying” human-non-human conflicts, the humans aren’t the only ones feeling fear.

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