This season, we are going to be involved in a research project called Spot the Leopard Shark. This project is being run by the University of Queensland in Australia and its aims are to:
“use photo-identification of individual leopard sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum – also known as zebra sharks) to investigate population abundance and demography, movement and longevity of wild leopard shark populations.”*
Luckily for us, we have leopard sharks right here on our doorstep at the dive sites of Koh Bida and Hin Bida.
So, how do we help this project? It’s simple – when we see a leopard shark, we take a photo! The team at the University of Queensland will try to identify individual sharks, so the aim is to get as much information as possible to help with identification. Photos will be taken of both sides of the shark, as markings are unique to each shark. In addition, information about location, time, date, depth and the sex of the shark should be provided. The team will then compare the photo with other sharks in the database and will either get an idea of the history of the shark if it has been sighted before, or enter a completely new shark in to the database. If a new shark is found, then the person who took the photo gets to name it!
To help our divers along, we have a board with information about the project and tips for help sexing the shark. We also encourage divers to abide by a Code of Conduct to avoid scaring the shark and interfering with the habitat. We hope to provide a large quantity of data for scientists to use and are looking forward to naming our first shark!