Dead sheep may have sparked Egypt shark maulings: governor

2nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A shark that attacked swimmers off an Egyptian resort might have become frenzied after a transport ship dumped dead sheep in the sea, South Sinai's governor said on Thursday, adding experts believe they have caught the responsible fish.

Three Russians and a Ukrainian were attacked by what environment ministry officials described as an oceanic whitetip shark in separate attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday as they swam off the beach in Sharm el-Sheikh.

A stretch of the beach was still closed to swimmers on Thursday as a precautionary measure, governor Mohammed Abdel Fadil Shosha said.

Oceanic experts caught a two-metre (6.5-foot) shark they believe was responsible for the attacks, he said.

One woman lost a foot and another an arm in the attacks. The tourists were transferred to hospital in Cairo.

Oceanic whitetip sharks are extremely opportunistic feeders that usually hunt and scavenge in deeper waters.

"Maybe the shark was attracted after a ship dumped dead sheep into the sea," Shosha said.

Environment expert Magdi al-Alwani said the shark could have been forced closer to shore by overfishing in its environment, or was possibly hit by a boat, which had badly affected its nerves.

As of Thursday afternoon, the shark's fate was hanging in the balance as Shosha and Environment Minister Magid George disagreed on whether to release it back into the wild or put it on display.

Shosha told AFP the shark appeared to be in shock and would be released back into the sea, far from beaches, after it was examined and treated.

But a statement on the environment ministry's website said George had given instructions to embalm the fish and display it in a visitors hall in a south Sinai coastal reserve.

The statement was accompanied by pictures of the catch which appeared to be a mako shark, another aggressive species.

© 2010 AFP

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