These amazing pictures show a man stroking frenzied tiger sharks as they savagely rip apart a dead whale he is standing on.
Leon Deschamps, 32, wants to dispel ‘myth’ the animals are blood thirsty killing machines and put his own life at risk to prove it.Photographs show Leon’s hands and feet just millimetres from the tiger sharks’ razor sharp jaws.
The conservationist from Shark Bay in Western Australia – said people perceive all sharks to be the same and that tiger sharks are victims as a result.
Leon said: ‘We fear tiger sharks because we do not understand them. They are lumped into the same group as great whites and bull sharks, just because they are a type of shark, but their feeding and predation habits are completely different.
‘We must be more species specific when we talk about sharks.
‘I want to bring the animals into the public arena, educate people so that they know they are not blood thirsty killing machines.
‘Tiger sharks are not constantly aggressive. And now people can see that, after I threw myself into the middle of a feeding frenzy.’
He added: ‘Feeding is a time when they are supposed to be at their most ferocious. But I think they quite enjoyed me stroking their noses.
‘They are like a pet dog. You can share beautiful, incredible interaction with them, but if you do not show them respect, even a pit bull can rip you to shreds.’
Leon insists the stunt was spur of the moment and strongly warns people not to attempt the same feat.
He said: ‘I heard about the whale carcass from fishermen coming back to shore.
‘Me and some friends travelled through the night on a Catamaran and arrived early the next day. We were the first to arrive and saw the sharks in a eating frenzy.
‘It was totally spur of the moment but I knew it was incredibly safe. It was because it was not a planned event that made it so special.
‘You must remember the whale was grounded, beached in about one metre of water. I was stable. great whites can jump and will do so to get their prey. Tiger sharks don’t.
‘It was the safest time I would ever get to touch these animals during feeding. I wasn’t scared because I have educated myself about the animal. It was an amazing experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity and wild horses would not have stopped me from doing it.’
He added: ‘I’ve done this so that people talk about tiger sharks. I’m all about conservation. I don’t want anyone touching a dead whale or touching tiger sharks. But if I can educate people about them then hopefully that will dispel the myths surrounding them and help promote conservation.’
Leon will conduct shark safari tours for tourists from January to further educate people about the species.
But he says no one will be touching the sharks, or even getting close to them.
Leon said: ‘It’s called Shark Bay for a reason and is one of the most richly diverse national parks in the world, right up there with the Great Barrier Reef, Grand Canyon and the Galapagos Islands.
‘But even the authorities don’t like me mentioning the sharks, because they think I’ll scare off all the tourists.
‘I want to change people’s opinions about them and make Shark Bay a place where people come to discover them and watch them close up, like you go on safari in Africa to see a tiger in the wild.
‘Because the bay is so shallow, there is a unique opportunity to educate people about them here.
‘And the best way to see them is via a 4×4 vehicle on top of the 20 metre cliff looking down on them, not driving along the beach or even in a boat.
‘That way, you get to see them in a totally natural environment, undisturbed, just doing what sharks do.’
He added: ‘Because of Jaws the movie, there is a sensational Hollywood image of all sharks. But tiger sharks hate conflict.
‘They don’t like killing big things in case they get a cut or scratch that leaves them open to infection – so they look for dead animals to feast on like this whale.
‘They probably won’t eat now for another four months.’
Leon added: ‘I’m 32 now and I’ve finally found something to believe in. I’m wholeheartedly drawn to help their conservation.’
A spokesman for the Department of Environment and Conservation warned that touching whales was illegal and people were not to interfere with sharks because of the risk of attack.
He said of the stunt: ‘This is highly irresponsible and dangerous behaviour and puts people’s lives at risk.’