Would you put your hands anywhere near a tiger shark’s gnashers?
Me neither – but that’s exactly what diver Matt Heath did when he noticed that one he was observing on a dive had a fisherman’s hook sticking out of its mouth.
After swimming with the sharks and gaining their trust, the dive boat captain knew he had to help.
‘Believe me, there is nothing relaxing about pulling a large hook out of a 14ft tiger shark,’ said the 29-year-old American. ‘However, the feeling of seeing these amazing creatures swim away a bit more comfortable is worth the risk.’
Mr Heath has spent years studying the sharks in the Bahamas and understanding their behaviour.
‘They became friends and I could not help but care about them as you would with any animal you spend so much time with,’ he said.
‘If your dog came in from playing outside and had a thorn in its paw, of course, you would want to remove it.
‘You can only imagine how it must feel to have a piece of metal stuck in your jaw while you are trying to eat.’
Mr Heath, from Illinois, said it was important to see tiger sharks as more than just man-eaters.
‘Hopefully, we can begin to change the way we see these beautiful animals and the role they play in keeping our oceans healthy,’ he explained.
‘Up until around six years ago, swimming with a tiger shark would have been a nightmare to me. But I want these sharks to be happy and healthy, and this means putting myself in a very uncomfortable position from time to time.’