Bull Shark Zambezi

Bull Shark South Africa

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Bull Shark (Zambezi)

Carcharhinus leucas

Identification: Bull sharks may reach over 4m in length. The body is predominantly grey with a lighter underbelly and no inter-dorsal ridge.

The bull shark is a robust shark with a distinctively rounded “blunt” snout. The teeth of the upper jaw are triangular and serrated, the lower jaw teeth are more slender.

The fins are pointed and well developed with no distinct markings. Fin tips may be darker in juveniles – fading with age. Bull sharks are sometimes confused with the comparatively smaller Java shark – Carcharhinus ambionensis

Bull Shark South Africa
Zambezi shark approaching

Biology: Bull sharks are remarkable in their ability to tolerate fresh water for long and possibly indefinite periods, having been recorded hundreds of kilometers up rivers in many parts of the world. Bull sharks can be found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide. Up to 12 young are born live in Summer after approximately one year gestation. They reach sexual maturity at about 6 years and a length 2.5m. The bull shark is known to most South Africans as the Zambezi shark, as it has been found many kilometers up the Zambezi River.

Behavior: Aside from their freshwater capabilities Bull sharks are generally confined to coastal waters, estuaries and river mouths. They are opportunistic feeders, feeding on bony fish (50% of diet), turtles, small sharks and dolphins, rays and even crabs. The bull shark has been implicated in many attacks on bathers and surfers worldwide, usually inshore and in murky waters. Often seen on Protea Banks, Kwazulu Natal, they are not regarded as a threat to divers, although they can be very inquisitive and deserve much respect. Recent dives on Protea Banks have seen as many as 12 Zambezi sharks mixing freely with the divers – almost as if the divers are accepted as part of the group. More on baited shark dives…

Shark Identification South Africa

What shark did we see?

When trying to identify any wild animals, colour is usually the least important feature. When it comes to identifying sharks try get a good look at the tail and any obvious markings – spots patterns and dark tips on the fins are always useful. Combine this with the size and location of fins and you should be getting pretty close to pinning down the family – if not the species -good luck!

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This text has been compiled from several different sources, personal observations and anecdotes. It is intended to serve as a popular guide only. While every effort has been made to keep the information accurate and updated, it should not be seen in any way as a scientific text or reference.

Copyright: Oceans Africa 2012       Original artwork: Graeme S. Grant