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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2002

Sharks star in summer fun

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KAHALU'U — While summer programs at other parks had children doing sports, arts and crafts, at 'Ahuimanu Community Park they were learning about sharks.

Children in the Summer Fun program at 'Ahuimanu Community Park get a closeup view of a tiger shark jaw brought by Jennifer Crites, who is fighting shark fear with information.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

A crowd of students from kindergarten to sixth-grade ooh'd and aah'd at the jaw of a tiger shark big enough to swallow some of them as they listened to "cool and interesting" facts about sharks:

  • Thousands of sharks ply Hawaiian waters, but they are rarely seen because they are afraid of people and dart away, using an ability to detect the electric fields emanating from muscles.
  • One type of shark can regurgitate its stomach, wash it out and swallow it again — a useful ability considering that sharks have been known to swallow raincoats, buckets and sacks of coal.
  • The tiger shark, the most feared in Hawai'i, has several rows of teeth. When one is lost, another grows in its place.

The presentation by Jennifer Crites, co-author of "Sharks & Rays of Hawaii," was part of a program run by the city Department of Parks and Recreation Summer Fun program. The hour-long session at 'Ahuimanu was the first of a series that Crites will deliver at parks around O'ahu.

"I wanted (the children) exposed to different things," said Diane Liu, recreation director at 'Ahuimanu park. 'Ahuimanu also offers arts and crafts, she said.

The children already knew a lot about sharks, and they said they feared them less after hearing Crites and seeing her slide show and visual aids.

Sharks are part of the recipe for Summer Fun for kids at 'Ahuimanu Community Park.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"(The lecture) was cool and interesting," said Remmington Francis, 13, a junior leader in the Summer Fun program who wants to be a marine biologist. "I learned a lot of stuff I never knew before."

Crites, who was a docent at Waikiki Aquarium for six years, became hooked on sharks after a visit to the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island to feed sharks with Gerald Crow, head of the shark research program at the aquarium and its acting curator.

"When I didn't know anything about sharks, I was terrified of them, and the 'Jaws' movie really scared me," Crites said. "I stayed out of the ocean."

All that changed when she learned that most sharks are nonthreatening and swim away from people. They are hard to find even though there are thousands of sharks in Hawai'i waters, Crites said.

Kiha Sai, 8, recalled an incident in which a canoe he was in tipped, and someone had spotted a shark in the water. He was with his mother and other people and they were told to stay still, Kiha said.

"I was a little afraid and my stomach was excited," he said, adding that the talk had made him less afraid of sharks.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.