Monday, 21 April 2014

A shark cull divides a nation

By Clarissa Sebag-MontefiorePerth, Australia
This year, for the first time, efforts have been made to catch sharks off the shore of Western Australia and to shoot the biggest of them. The state has applied for permission to continue the programme for another three years - but it's a divisive policy with many bitter critics.

Elyse Frankcom was diving with dolphins in the vast waters of Western Australia when she felt the jaws of a great white shark clamp around her legs.

"It just hit me," remembers the 22-year-old, who was violently pulled down from the surface by the 3.5m (11ft) shark in late 2010. "I tried to punch and push it. I reached down to my foot and switched on [my shark shield]. That is the last thing I remember doing."

The shield, which emits an electrical field designed to repel sharks, may have forced the animal to retreat, but when it released its grip, she sank. A tourist dived down to retrieve her, hauling her, unconscious and bleeding, to the surface.

It took Frankcom months of physiotherapy to learn to walk again. The shark's jaw cut through the bone on one leg and tore muscles on the other - its teeth were found embedded in both. For weeks every step felt like "hitting [my legs] with a baseball bat".
Frankcom has made a slow recovery

Yet, despite the pain and the narrow escape, Frankcom is one of thousands of Australians protesting against Western Australia's controversial culling of sharks.

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