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Cindy the friendly shark - a great internet hoax

By Adriana Stuijt     Jan 11, 2009 in Entertainment
A fascinating hoax is circulating on the internet, involving 'Cindy, the friendly shark,' and her love affair with either an Australian or a South African fisherman, depending on which site it has landed on. It's illustrated with accurate photographs.
The hoax-slayer website reports that the hoaxers claim that the story was first published in the French Magazine "Le magazine des voyages de pĂȘche" in its 56th edition. And the story goes something like this. ,
"Arnold Pointer a professional fisherman from south of Australia set free from a certain death a big female White Shark that was caught in his fishing nets. Now the fisherman has a problem: He says: "It's been two years and she doesn't leave me alone. She follows me everywhere I go and her presence scares all the fishes. I don't know what to do anymore..."
It is hard to get rid of an almost 17 feet long shark since the White Sharks are protected by the wildlife conservation, but a mutual affection established between Arnold and "Cindy", the story continues.
Arnold is quoted as saying: "Once I stop the boat she comes to me, she turns on her back and let me pet her belly and neck, she grunts, turn her eyes, and move her fins up and down hitting the water happilly..."
A number of compelling photographs, supposedly showing the interaction between the shark and the fisherman, are included in the presentation.
However, the story is entirely untrue.Hoax-slayers have contacted "Le magazine des voyages de pĂȘche", the French publication mentioned in the message, to enquire about the origin of the story.
They say that the "Shark Love Story" was published in the magazine two years ago as an April Fool's joke. And then it took on a life of its own, first in French and later in the English version.
In fact, all the photographs used in the presentation were taken by marine biologists and shark experts, Michael C. Scholl and Thomas P. Peschak of the Natal Sharks Board in Durban, South Africa and have nothing whatsoever to do with an affectionate shark and a kind Australian fisherman.
They publish a series of photographs. The first is a picture of a man in a kayak being followed by a shark -- this was featured in the September 2005 issue of Africa Geographic. They also published another photograph of a kayaker, followed by a huge shark. These were included in the hoax. Other photographs in the slideshow also are from the White Shark Trust website and from other publications. Not all the featured photographs even depict the same shark.
And, although a man does reach out and touch a shark in some of the photographs, this is simply a situational action - The Natal Parks Board researchers and other South African shark experts discovered that sharks become mesmerised when their snouts are touched, similarly to the hypnosis which lobsters can also be placed under when their bellies are rubbed. So they now do this snout-touching for the entertainment of tourists. The shark can be seen rolling over on his back, and appears in trance, very briefly.
Hoax-slayers report that the pictures are misconstrued - these actions have nothing to do with mutual affection. They said that a shark simply was biologically not equipped to reciprocate such feelings.
More about Cindy, Friendly shark, Hoax, Natal sharks board, White shark trust
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