The killer of two female swimmers off the Egyptian coast south of Hurghada recently was a female tiger shark – according to the findings in an eight-page report issued by a committee of the Hurghada Environmental Protection & Conservation Association (HEPCA).
Its conclusion comes from what are described as clear signs of bite-marks on the bodies of the two women. Experts had originally attributed the attacks to a mako shark.
The committee says in its report that the attacks occurred because it was the sharks’ mating season, and that this had made the females more aggressive than usual as they were drawn into shallow waters.
But it also gives an additional explanation in the form of the presence of food waste, dropped into the sea by boats and hotels, and animal carcasses discarded by cargo ships.
“This is a typical explanation given by Egyptian authorities when such incidents have occurred in the past, and while it is likely enough it is also an over-simplification,” says shark conservationist and scuba diver Ekrem Parmaksiz, who obtained a copy of the report for Divernet.
“I have been diving in the Red Sea for more than 13 years, and have come across beautiful tiger sharks off Rocky Island and Elphinstone reefs on two occasions. I must confess that the recent incidents, the way they took place and the identification of the culprit as a female tiger shark took me by surprise, because tiger shark attacks have been exceedingly rare off Egypt’s Red Sea coasts,” he says.
“We all know about the tragic oceanic whitetip shark incidents over the past 10 years but tiger shark attacks in the shallow coastal waters off Hurghada are rare. While it is true that these species begin to enter shallow waters during the mating season, it is normally male tiger sharks that are the aggressive ones, usually after mating has just concluded.
“The females’ mood does not usually become aggressive. So laying the blame with such certainty on a female tiger shark and indicating the mating season, which lasts from mid-April to the end of July, as well as pointing to discarded food, seems to me to be a premature conclusion.”