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Archive for Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Animal Planet goes swimming with sharks

November 29, 2000

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Ian Gordon laughs when he talks about his latest "Shark Gordon" episode, now being filmed in the Bahamas. "We're doing experiments on how bull sharks feed and whether they can differentiate between my feet and fish," he says. To do this, he stands in waist-deep water and lets bull sharks feed near his feet. He's confident he'll come out of the water walking.

Does this sound suspiciously like another Australian who messes with dangerous animals? "Look at these teeth. They could rip you apart!" Let's see, might that be crocodile hunter Steve Irwin or shark hunter Ian Gordon? Take your pick it's a one-statement-fits-all.

Gordon explains why he wants sharks feeding next to his feet. "The point is, bull sharks are considered one of the more dangerous species of sharks. They're viewed as mindless killers and they're not at all," Gordon says. Through his work and this season's new television program on Animal Planet, he says he wants to show sharks' intelligence and relieve people's fears.

One scene in an episode about great white sharks shows cute little seals lounging oceanside. It's warm and fuzzy, just like a stuffed animal. Then there's his comment: "There's nothing a white shark likes better than a nice juicy seal pup." Oh, brother.

"Certainly, sharks are top-water feeders," Gordon says, "but they aren't stupid, mindless animals." He says people are afraid of sharks for two reasons: "People don't like the idea of being eaten alive, especially by something they can't see. Second is an inherent fear of drowning."

Gordon grew up in Sydney, Australia, where he learned to scuba dive. Australia, he says, has the greatest variety of sharks, but his 13-episode program looks at sharks swimming in waters around the globe, including Hawaii, Mexico and Midway Atoll in the South Pacific.

He says, yes, occasionally sharks do bite people. "I could go swimming tonight and get bitten," he says. "The most dangerous thing you will do, however, is turn on the ignition of your car and back out of the driveway."

Of course, there's a tad of learning thrown in. Two big scoops of adventure and a teaspoon of learning thrown in it's another excellent adventure led by an animal nut from down under.

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