animal

Huge Tiger Shark Melts Into Sweet Puppy Dog When Brave Diver Pets His Head

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Imagine this: You’re in scuba gear, swimming through turquoise, crystal-clear water — when all of a sudden, shapes appear from behind the rocks and coral. They have sharp-looking fins and enormous mouths. And they’re swimming right at you.

If you’re like most people, this is probably a vision straight out of your nightmares. Deep underwater, facing down a school of oncoming sharks? No thank you!

But then, Jim Abernathy isn’t like most people.

Abernathy is a shark conservationist, and he’s working to show people that sharks aren’t the aggressive, bloodthirsty killers the media often makes them out to be.

Sharks can absolutely be dangerous and should be treated with respect, but Abernathy wants to show the world they have another side, too.

Most people who want to get up close and personal with sharks do so from the (completely understandable) safety of a diving cage, like the diver who saw a truly massive great white.

But Abernathy, being a trained professional, literally dives into the water with them.

And what do the sharks think about all this? It turns out some sharks are enjoying the slightly more positive press that Abernathy is bringing them.

He recently swam with a group of tiger sharks that were more than happy to see him — and not because they were hungry.

Be sure to watch the magical moment in the video below!

[H/T: National Geographic]

Sharks get a bad rap in media.

It’s true these predators of the sea can be very dangerous, but for the most part, sharks only attack humans if they feel threatened.

Tiger sharks, which can be found in warm-water reefs all around the world, are one of the species most responsible for biting humans.

Conservationist Jim Abernathy wants to make people more sympathetic to sharks.

He explains that they usually only bite when frightened, such as by snorkelers blundering into their territories.

He also wants to show people a side of sharks that few ever get to see.

In a video shot for National Geographic Channel, Abernathy and his team, including photographer Eric Cheng, go down into the sea to hang out with some tiger sharks off the coast of Australia, with no cages at all.

He discovered that when they don’t feel threatened, the sharks are curious and friendly, and love nothing more than getting a good head scratch.

In the past 10 years of working with sharks, he’s removed more than 80 fishhooks from their mouths, potentially saving their lives.

As a result, he knows how to make sharks feel at ease and friendly.

He’s come to believe that sharks, like dogs or cats, respond to affection.

“The tiger sharks come back repeatedly to get this affection over and over again,” he says as sharks swim up to get their heads rubbed and scratched.

“It’s a real privilege to be with these beautiful creatures.”

Occasionally, a dive will also lead to Abernathy helping an animal in need.

In this case, it was a male tiger shark who became entangled in a plastic packing strap that was embedded in his flesh.

This is sadly a common occurrence in oceans among all kinds of species, as litter like fishing line, six-pack rings, and packing material float through the water.

The trash digs into the skin, which can cause infections and restrict digestive tracts and circulation, as well as trouble breathing.

Luckily for this shark, though, one of Abernathy’s crew members had a knife and was able to remove the strip.

The shark paused to let the crew member slice off the plastic, then swam happily away.

“This is a very special, unique moment where we are actually making friends with a huge wild animal that the world believes to be a vicious killer,” Abernathy says. “But the truth is so different.”

The shark, free of its plastic binding, will heal and live normally now.

The shark, maybe grateful, even swam alongside Abernathy’s boat after the humans got out of the water.

See the amazing footage in the video below.

Would you ever get this close to a shark? Or would you rather just watch them in videos?

Let us know in the comments, and SHARE these unexpectedly adorable creatures with anyone who loves a surprise!