A man has become internet famous after saving a baby shark that washed ashore on a South African beach.
Xander de Beer, who owns a fishing and chartering company, was walking along the water one day when he noticed an egg laying in the sand. He told Newsweek that he often spots shark eggs on the beach, but by the time he finds them, the baby is already dead. This time, however, he noticed that the embryo was moving.
For a TikTok video, De Beer held the clear, amber-colored egg to the sun to better show the living shark. The post has already amassed over 2 million curious views in a week.
“Found this little fella in his egg on the beach! Brought it home to put it in a tank with the hopes of it hatching and to release it again,” he wrote. “He would’ve dried out and died on the beach!”
The Fisherman Hopes to Hatch and Release the Endangered Shark
De Beers shared that the baby is a puffadder shyshark, which Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium later confirmed. The shyshark only lives along the South African coast and the species is considered endangered.
“The sharks’ egg cases are often found on beaches after the baby shark has hatched already,” the aquarium wrote, “and are commonly referred to as mermaid’s purses.”
The Shyshark, also called Happy Eddie or Happy Chappie, is a small species that only grows to be about 24 inches long. It lives along the seabed and is suffering because it ends up as a “bycatch of trawling and shore fisheries.”
What further hurts the population is that adults don’t reach sexual maturity for seven years. They often die as bycatch before they ever reproduce.
“Local fishermen, who catch fish from the shore, are not too fond of them either, regarding them as bait-stealing pests that are killed rather than released,” the aquarium continued. “These sharks are also increasingly falling victim to ghost fishing gear, as their favorite hiding spots are often also prone to snagging fishing nets and line.”
Thanks to de Beer, one more Happy Chappie will live to possibly reproduce. And he told Newsweek that he’s taking the responsibility of raising and releasing his shark very seriously.
“I brought it home and made a little ecosystem for it,” he said. “If I threw it back it would’ve just washed out again and it would’ve surely died.”
Xander de Beer doesn’t know how old the egg is, but he guesses that it’s “a few months” into its nine-month gestation period.
“I am planning to look after it and constantly replacing the seawater with new seawater,” he continued. “If I can hatch it successfully I would really love to return it to the ocean!!”