Lilley shoots shark footage for NatGeo Wild

LIHUE — Fresh underwater shark footage will be airing on National Geographic Go Wild in the spring of 2018, featuring scenes shot days ago by Kauai’s Terry Lilley.

While the details are under wraps until production is finished, Lilley said the footage is part of a Shark Week-type series. He was on Oahu finishing up shots Aug. 22.

It will be akin to “When Sharks Attack,” another educational shark show Lilley shot for NatGeo Wild, which focused on the spike in shark attacks on Maui and theories behind the phenomenon.

The show floats theories such as military activity and an increase in human activity in the water as possible reasons for an increase in sharks in some areas.

“(We addressed) shark build up in Maui, where the tiger sharks are leaving areas of military activity,” Lilley said. “Plus there are more tourists, surfers, divers and swimmers in the water these days near where the sharks feed.”

He continued: “The next show will deal with other issues, like flash floods, sewage spills, turtle behavior and open ocean farms.”

Lilley has captured thousands of hours and hundreds of animals on his underwater cameras over the years, everything from sea stars and green sea turtles to whale sharks.

“I captured a pregnant sandbar shark off of Lehua, and I believe that’s the only shot in existence of a female pregnant sandbar shark,” Lilley said. “There aren’t very many people in Hawaii, or in the world, who have spent as much time with sharks as me.”

And he’s not just filming the sharks.

“I have a movie I did for NatGeo in the Bahamas, where we are feeding 50 large wild sharks and scratching their bellies, just to show folks they won’t hurt people,” Lilley said.

While the sharks craved belly scratches, Lilley said the Bahamas “sea dogs” were still typical, hungry apex predators.

As part of an experiment, the team spear hunted lionfish and trained the large sharks to hang around for a snack when they heard the sound of the gun.

“They don’t typically eat lionfish, but we trained them that they’d get an easy meal when the spearfishermen were around,” Lilley said. “What it showed us was that sharks are animals that are easily trained, even if you’re not trying to train them.”

An increase in fishing means an increase in easy meals, and Lilley’s theory is that most shark bites are a case of mistaken identity, not attacks.

“They’re accidents,” he said. “The shark isn’t trying to eat humans, it’s after something else.”

Lilley’s video can be seen on National Geographic Go Wild.

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