Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Video By Shark Expert Ila France Porcher, Available For Shark Week 2015






The Shark Sessions” relates the story of sharks who were Porcher's companions for many years in Tahiti. When they were finned and massacred by a company from Singapore, she wrote down their story so that the world would find out : what they were like, and what had happened to them. Her powerful mini-documentary is now available.

[Wilmington, NC July 15, 2015] Shark expert Ila France Porcher has announced the release of a new video mini-documentary to coincide with Shark Week 2015. Porcher is the author of 'The Shark Sessions: My Sunset Rendezvous'. The book presents the story of her long-term ethological study of reef sharks in Tahiti, and the resulting findings, against the background of the uneasy society surrounding it. Intelligence in wild animals in general, and sharks in particular, is the major theme.

"In 2004, I was interviewed by the BBC for Discovery's 'Shark Week' regarding the evidence for thinking in sharks that I had found during my underwater study of their behaviour," Porcher stated. "For years, I had been keeping track of more than 600 sharks who passed through the area, and could recognize 300 on sight. 

“With the certainty that comes with repeatedly verified, first hand knowledge of their behaviour, I had learned that individual sharks could be easily distinguished, not only by their appearance, but because they each had distinctive ways of behaving. I was able to report that: 

• each shark is a unique individual.
• behaviour patterns that had been considered automatic and purely instinctive, such as roaming, reactions to sudden events, and their responses to other sharks and to me, were actually flexible and varied at different times.
• they showed a range of emotional states including fear, rage, curiosity, excitement, and happiness.
• they treated people, and other sharks, as individuals.


"From my long association with with the resident sharks who accompanied me during my observation sessions, I learned that sharks can develop companionships with people if the person approaches them with patience and calmness so that they can let go of their fear.

But Shark Week left out my urgent message that those sharks were actually being finned and were in need of protection, and omitted my findings. The presenter stated, 'Ila claims that these sharks have personalities, but the jury's still out on that.'

"But the jury was not out. Cognitive thought in fish was beginning to be recognized, and my findings that sharks were capable of it too, had already been presented at a scientific conference by then. Since that time, more and more discoveries have been made about the sentience of a wide variety of oceanic life.

“The discovery that sharks are intelligently aware, and are pursuing lives of meaning to themselves, has startling implications. It changes our perception of them, and of their place in nature, as well as ours. Yet, these scientific facts are being ignored, and many to continue to present sharks as brutal man-eating killers.”

So she created a mini-documentary to complement the Shark Week entertainment this year, which shows actual footage of the sharks she studied, and some surprising shark behaviour.

Ila France Porcher is available for media interviews and can be reached by email at ilafranceporcher@gmail.com. Her mini documentary is available on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hryPvS5cmqM

More information is available at her website at http://ilafranceporcher.wix.com/author.

About Ila France Porcher:

Ila France Porcher is a self-taught, published ethologist. She grew up in British Columbia, Canada, and at an early age became fascinated by watching and drawing wild animals. As a result, she naturally became a wildlife artist, and in time began documenting the behaviour of the animals she painted, being especially intrigued by actions suggesting intelligence and cognition.

In Tahiti she found sharks to be the first wild animals who came to her instead of fleeing. They were so intriguing that she launched an intensive study of them, systematically observing and recording their behaviour. Following the precepts of the field of cognitive ethology, and later with the guidance of world class marine ethologist Dr. Arthur A. Myrberg Jr., University of Miami, she learned to interpret their behaviour. Part of her study was subsequently published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Biology, and some of her observations are considered to be the first documented cases of cognition in sharks. She is credited with the discovery of a way to study these much maligned predators that does not involve killing them, and was dubbed “the Jane Goodall of Sharks,” for her investigation of their intelligent behaviour in the wild, while giving a presentation about them at the University of Miami.

- See more at:

http://www.freepublicitygroup.com/news/release_ila_porcher_shark_week_jul115/#sthash.RcrOyrtd.dpuf




By Shark Expert Ila France Porcher, Author Of 'The Shark Sessions', Available For Shark Week 2015

“The Shark Sessions” relates the story of sharks who were Porcher's companions for many years in Tahiti. When they were finned and massacred by a company from Singapore, she wrote down their story so that the world would find out : what they were like, and what had happened to them. Her powerful mini-documentary is now available.



Author Ila France Porcher[Wilmington, NC July 15, 2015] Shark expert Ila France Porcher has announced the release of a new video mini-documentary to coincide with Shark Week 2015. Porcher is the author of 'The Shark Sessions: My Sunset Rendezvous'. The book presents the story of her long-term ethological study of reef sharks in Tahiti, and the resulting findings, against the background of the uneasy society surrounding it. Intelligence in wild animals in general, and sharks in particular, is the major theme.
"In 2004, I was interviewed by the BBC for Discovery's 'Shark Week' regarding the evidence for thinking in sharks that I had found during my underwater study of their behaviour," Porcher stated. "For years, I had been keeping track of more than 600 sharks who passed through the area, and could recognize 300 on sight.
“With the certainty that comes with repeatedly verified, first hand knowledge of their behaviour, I had learned that individual sharks could be easily distinguished, not only by their appearance, but because they each had distinctive ways of behaving. I was able to report that:
•    each shark is a unique individual.
•    behaviour patterns that had been considered automatic and purely instinctive, such as roaming, reactions to sudden events, and their responses to other sharks and to me, were actually flexible and varied at different times.
•    they showed a range of emotional states including fear, rage, curiosity, excitement, and happiness.
•    they treated people, and other sharks, as individuals.

ila_porcher_cover"From my long association with with the resident sharks who accompanied me during my observation sessions, I learned that sharks can develop companionships with people if the person approaches them with patience and calmness so that they can let go of their fear.
But Shark Week  left out my urgent message that those sharks were actually being finned and were in need of protection, and omitted my findings. The presenter stated, 'Ila claims that these sharks have personalities, but the jury's still out on that.'
"But the jury was not out. Cognitive thought in fish was beginning to be recognized, and my findings that sharks were capable of it too, had already been presented at a scientific conference by then. Since that time, more and more discoveries have been made about the sentience of a wide variety of oceanic life.
“The discovery that sharks are intelligently aware, and are pursuing lives of meaning to themselves, has startling implications. It changes our perception of them, and of their place in  nature, as well as ours. Yet, these scientific facts are being ignored, and many to continue to present sharks as brutal  man-eating killers.”
So she created a mini-documentary to complement the Shark Week entertainment this year, which shows actual footage of the sharks she studied, and some surprising shark behaviour.
Ila France Porcher is available for media interviews and can be reached by email at ilafranceporcher@gmail.com. Her mini documentary is available on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hryPvS5cmqM. More information is available at her website at http://ilafranceporcher.wix.com/author.
About  Ila France Porcher:
Ila France Porcher is a self-taught, published ethologist. She grew up in British Columbia, Canada, and at an early age became fascinated by watching and drawing wild animals. As a result, she naturally became a wildlife artist, and in time began documenting the behaviour of the animals she painted, being especially intrigued by actions suggesting intelligence and cognition.
In Tahiti she found sharks to be the first wild animals who came to her instead of fleeing. They were so intriguing that she launched an intensive study of them, systematically observing and recording their behaviour. Following the precepts of the field of cognitive ethology, and later with the guidance of world class marine ethologist Dr. Arthur A. Myrberg Jr., University of Miami, she learned to interpret their behaviour. Part of her study was subsequently published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Biology, and some of her observations are considered to be the first documented cases of cognition in sharks. She is credited with the discovery of a way to study these much maligned predators that does not involve killing them, and was dubbed “the Jane Goodall of Sharks,” for her investigation of their intelligent behaviour in the wild, while giving a presentation about them at the University of Miami.

- See more at: http://www.freepublicitygroup.com/news/release_ila_porcher_shark_week_jul115/#sthash.RcrOyrtd.dpuf

Monday, 6 July 2015

Sharks Enjoy Divers as Divers Enjoy Sharks!

Sharks are interested in others, and their spontaneous gestures toward divers show their curiosity toward other members of their submarine community, including divers who show interest in them. The interest is returned.

Thus it is possible through photos to capture the eye to eye gaze of these mysterious creatures of the deep, when for just few moments of their day, they meet us.
Recognition of others as individuals has long been established in fish and sharks, as in other social species. As well as knowing others, sharks demonstrate by their actions that they recognize themselves as being separate from others and observable. To this degree they are self aware.

The photo shows one of my shark companions coming to greet me when she found me in the lagoon. She looks at me with first one eye and then the other as she approaches with her gently undulating movement.


She nearly touches my face with hers, then turns to swim away at an angle over my shoulder.
I gave her a treat after she had followed me for a long time, and snapped a photo as she accelerated away shaking her scrap. If you look closely, you can see her right eye looking back at me. Sharks, like horses, can look straight behind them as well as in front due to their serpentine motion. 

This tiger shark had come over to look at me and when she left, she turned and glanced at me behind her, with one eye after another.
Here a tiger shark had come to see me, then swam away and suddenly turned back..
 She swam straight back to me

and came to look at me again. 

This curiosity seemed to be associated with the shark's interest in the other large animals in the region. Her focus on my eyes is typical of all of the close approaches of this sort by sharks that I have witnessed.

I have often come across statements by people, especially fishermen, who were approached by a shark in this way, who claimed that the shark was "attacking," or "would have attacked" had the shark not been shot or blown up with a power head, or something like that. But the real reason for these close approaches is the natural, social curiosity of this intelligent animal.

Bull sharks will come for a friendly look, too.

So will Caribbean reef sharks.
And lemon sharks.
If so many different species of shark will do this, the behaviour pattern is likely wide-spread among them. Curiosity that is not based on a biological need is a sign of intelligence, and in this case is apparently linked to a wish to socialize.

A communication passes through a shared gaze in eye contact, and it seems important to sharks,  given this common behaviour with divers, as well as to us mammals.
The book I wrote about my studies, The Shark Sessions, describes the natural behaviour of sharks in detail.
(c) Ila France Porcher 2015




Saturday, 4 July 2015

Sad Memorial to a Finned Shark

 
Its been a long time since I wrote and posted this tribute to Madonna, my number one shark, when she was finned. It is she with whom I was swimming in this illustration on the cover of my book, The Shark Sessions.

So here it is again.

Ode to Madonna

"In just the last couple of months, waiting for the law to be passed to protect the sharks, the last of the older, mature females I first met some years ago have vanished from my part of the lagoon. This includes my number one shark, Madonna.

Madonna was the first shark to meet my kayak when I arrived in the lagoon in the mornings. She was nearly six feet long, steel grey, and heavily built. When I dove down and swam to her, she would come to me and look into my mask.

Meeting her by chance in the lagoon, she would swim to me when I called her, and circle, spiralling toward me til she was within arms' reach. But she did not like me to swim with her. She would set off on a sinuous path, and when I followed, she would come back, often turn sideways, accelerate and stop, or just vanish into the blue, but usually not before we had gone to meet up with one or two of her friends. Never could I detect the slightest sign between them as they passed, but I didn't think it could be chance that we had met up with them, knowing that they were her friends.

Beautiful Madonna was not one of our brightest lights. When I brought a treat for her, as I always did when she returned to her home range after breeding or birthing, I would sometimes have to throw it for her time after time before she could locate it, and often one of her friends would coil through the water to snatch it the moment it left my hand, a trick poor Madonna could never manage. Once I spent 45 minutes in terrible current just trying to get her treat to her.

Nevertheless, she would hopefully come to me for a bite. When I had nothing, and was actually promenading in the lagoon with her friend Martha, she would come charging in. I would fin backward, till we were swimming nose to nose, me on my back and her on top of me, while Martha circled us, watching. Madonna would finally give up when she realized I had nothing with me, and me and Martha would go on alone.

Madonna did this once when it was almost too dark to see, having arrived with a group of rather macho males from the ocean. She behaved as if she were starving to death, having just had her babies. When she soared up to my face all her companions did too, and while I could guide her around me with my hand, I didn't have enough hands to push away half a dozen sharks at once, and didn't want to be rammed by the strangers or have my mask knocked off in the dark.

Feeling sorry for my poor shark, who did look awfully emaciated after birthing, I returned as soon as conditions permitted, and trailed scent through her home range, followed by a tiny juvenile who always followed me, just out of sight, at that time. Finally, Madonna glided in, the juvenile now flitting excitedly at her side, apparently more confident in the presence of the big shark.

As she circled, I tossed the food so it fell to the side of her swimway, and saw her target it, but she slowed, allowing the excited juvenile to get it first. Luckily I had brought enough for both. 

I spent so much time with Madonna, I can remember every gesture, every movement she would make in different moods.

We all read all the time about thousands of sharks being finned all over the world, but when the sharks meeting this shocking end are ones you have come to know, and with whom you have spent time for many years, sharks of whom you have grown fond, the psychological effect is more intense.

Just as it is disturbing to read in the paper that some dogs elsewhere were poisoned -- but if it is your dogs who were poisoned and died, you reel."
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You can form a companionship with a shark just as you can with a dog, and they are just as intelligent and sensitive. They should not be fished; they should not be finned. They are peaceful creatures and there is no need to fear them.

(c) Ila France Porcher