It's a savage world we live in

ROSEMARY MCLEOD
Last updated 09:51 19/07/2012

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Rosemary McLeod

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OPINION: It's a curious sport, the one when young people, mostly males, dress up as seals in shiny black wetsuits, then ride surfboards in sharks' killing grounds.

In pursuit of this a 24-year-old surfer has been snatched by a great white shark off a beach north of Perth, where it had reportedly been seen cruising for several days, and even nicknamed Brutus by fellow surfers.

They had not reported its sighting. Perhaps they feared they'd have to stay away from that stretch of water if they did.

The sea off Western Australia is a known magnet for these predators, with surfers ignoring the fact that there've now been 10 fatal shark attacks along its coast in 10 months, and that great white sharks have a massive size advantage over people: they can grow to 6 metres long - this one was reportedly 4.5 metres long - and weigh up to 3000kg.

Sharks hunt seals, sea lions, dolphins, elephant seals, sea otters, turtles and sea birds - so from their point of view, why not add humans to the list? Anything that moves is a snack.

Western Australian officials swiftly set out on a hunt for the villain, to kill it and avenge the death.

But, unlike humans, the great white shark is a protected species, vulnerable to extinction. Better, maybe, to suggest wearing pastel- coloured wetsuits.

Brutes come in many forms, and I'm sad to add a jack russell terrier to the list. One of these raffish little dogs - I like the way they boldly dash about - has savaged two of an Auckland journalist's precious chooks to death.

"The dog looked like it was having fun; it looked like it was a game, " the journalist's daughter has reported indignantly. She said the dog's owner bolted, adding insult to injury, and from her holiday offshore the journalist has declared she'll hunt the man down on her return. I hear a muted drum roll at this point. What will she do when she finds him?

I hesitate to compare a jack russell to a great white shark, but nature will out. Dogs are hunters too, unless we breed that out of them, as are cats, which Wellington's Zealandia, the native bird sanctuary, would like people to give up having as pets.

I flinched at the description of feathers flying, since my own cats have done their share of evil deeds, and one of them regularly attacks newspapers, shredding them viciously as if they're some kind of prey - or possibly as an indignant comment on press ethics in Britain.

If revenge is a dish best served cold, I'd hate to be that dog's owner, slinking around with his hat down and collar up, in dark glasses like the ghost who walks (The Phantom) when he's travelling incognito.

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Hopefully he's dyed the terrier's coat purple and smuggled it out of the country.

But why not keep your precious chooks - and I adore chooks - safe in a fenced-in run, where a dog can't get at them? And why not walk the dog on a lead the way everyone else does?

For that matter, why not drive cautiously when you're in a strange country, and why not just pull over when police catch you speeding?

The appalling road deaths of the past few weeks suggest too many people don't believe the roads are a wilderness where you have to keep your wits about you.

Incidentally, I wonder if the Duchess of Cambridge is also on the warpath over pictures in the latest Woman's Day of her and Prince William on their honeymoon. Rival editor Sarah Stuart, of the NZ Women's Weekly, has called this a betrayal, a "breach of trust on William and Kate's honeymoon that was, I believe, a thoroughly modern kind of treason".

A woman convicted of treason could be burned at the stake in Britain until 1790, and Britain's ruler could ask for a guilty subject to be beheaded until 1973.

Hard to choose, really, between such human savagery and the habits of the great white shark, which is at least hungry. But then so are magazines, for circulation.

- The Press

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