Last year, PeaceParks.TV showcased spectacular footage of Spotted Ragged-tooth Sharks swimming the reefs of Santa Maria in Maputo National Park. On that occasion, Dr. Ryan Daly from the Oceanographic Research Institute came across nine gestating females. Dr. Daly visited the site again in late Summer of this year and, to our delight, spotted 15 of these critically endangered apex predators.

Santa Maria is a protected reef within Maputo National Park that is co-managed by Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas. It is a vital site for the critically endangered Spotted Ragged-tooth Sharks that visit the warm waters of Mozambique for the early months of their gestation, which is between 9 and 12 months long. The sharks have a low reproductive rate, only giving birth to two pups every second or third year. This contributes to their critically endangered status, as they also battle threats including overfishing and getting caught and strangled in shark nets.

Maputo National Park includes the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area, which links with South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park and includes a marine protected area. In late 2019, the ocean protection zone was extended from just three nautical miles off the coast to 18. This offers a buffer against illegal fish trawlers that catch not only Spotted Ragged-tooth Sharks but also unsustainably large swathes of fish, endangered sea turtles, and other unintended victims. The protection zone also provides a safe haven for other endangered species, including migratory whales and dugongs.

Spotted Ragged-tooth Sharks play an important apex-predatory role and hunt at night, mostly on demersal prey, meaning they mostly hunt animals close to the sea floor. While during the day they may shelter at shallow depths (of under 20 m), like at Santa Maria, at night they can venture down to the continental shelf to depths of 190 m in search of food.

Protecting critically endangered species such as the Spotted Ragged-tooth Shark requires dedication and a diverse set of conservation initiatives. From wildlife monitoring to community programmes and development and restoration activities, Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) are working hard in Maputo National Park to protect the precious ecosystems that we depend on.

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