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Researchers In New Zealand Use COVID-19 Lockdown To Monitor Sharks

NOEL KING, HOST:

Some creatures seem to be taking advantage of this pandemic. I'm talking about sharks.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

(Vocalizing "Jaws" theme).

HOWARD SWARTZ: The worldwide shutdown really did give, you know, sharks an opportunity to return to their natural behavior and sort of reclaim the oceans. And I think there's a lot more work to do, but the initial findings are very interesting.

KING: That's Howard Swartz, who oversees Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. This week, they're looking at what happened in shark world off the coast of New Zealand when the ocean got quieter.

KINA SCOLLAY: The lockdown here in New Zealand was extremely strict, and we saw that as an amazing opportunity to look at the natural behavior of sharks.

INSKEEP: Kina Scollay is co-founder of New Zealand's Great White Shark Research Project. In April, the country started to ease coronavirus restrictions, and the sharks started coming closer and getting bolder. When Scollay jumped into the waters of New Zealand's Foveaux Strait, he saw there were telltale signs of shark courtship.

SCOLLAY: We saw large female great white sharks with potentially what looked like mating scars. So when great white sharks mate, it's a brutal business. And there was, you know, teeth marks as a result.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCOLLAY: Look at the big bite scar on the side. Oh, my God.

We saw behavior between adult males and adult females that I had never seen before.

KING: Pretty intense. One upside of a lockdown - it's a great way to learn about shark behavior and misbehavior.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "MAIN TITLE (THEME FROM 'JAWS')") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.