I am excited to announce a new story I wrote about Bahamas-based conservationist Cristina Zenato. It was wonderful to meet Cristina and learn about her amazing life working with sharks, exploring the caves of The Bahamas, and fantastic contribution to marine conservation. Here is an excerpt from the story published by The Brilliant (30 May, 2022).
When Zenato began diving in The Bahamas, she would often observe Caribbean reef sharks swimming with hooks embedded in their mouths and witness the pain and discomfort it caused them. She started to patiently develop an incredible bond of trust with the local sharks, gradually removing the hooks by hand and, over time, forged friendships with these creatures.
It took time to understand them, for them to understand me, for them to let me do that”Zenato says.
Her work to remove the hooks spread by word-of-mouth from those who witnessed it, and gradually her actions attracted the attention of a global community. People were asking to accompany her on dive trips with the sharks to help remove the hooks. A YouTube video showing Zenato in action on animal lovers’ channel The Dodo has received upwards of 15.5m views since 2020.
“What I didn’t realise was this hook removal became symbolic,” Zenato says. It challenged preconceptions of sharks as “mindless killing machines”. People told her: “Wow, I didn’t even think sharks could suffer.”
Read The Shark Whisperer’s Mission here.