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Sea Swallowers and Land Devourers: Can Shark Lore Facilitate Conservation?
- Torrente, Frédéric, Bambridge, Tamatoa, Planes, Serge, Guiart, Jean, Clua, Eric G.
- Human ecology 2018 v.46 no.5 pp. 717-726
- Carcharhinus longimanus, atolls, common names, sharks, French Polynesia
- Polynesians’ detailed observations of shark behaviour encompass the notion of a divinity, the fleeting image of a sky god, as well as potential source of food and valued tools. Due to prevailing cosmogony, sharks benefited from being a taboo species, historically limiting their exploitation. We examine how the reputedly fierce warriors of ‘Anaa (an atoll in Tuamotu archipelago, French Polynesia) came to be symbolically identified with a marine predator, being called “Parata,” the vernacular name of the oceanic whitetip shark Carcharinus longimanus. Both sharks and indigenous cultures are currently under threat in the East Pacific and we propose that an understanding of these sacred relationships could be used to help protect them.