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Durban - The ritual slaughtering of animals on beaches could attract sharks, the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board warned on Friday.

This followed metro police intervening to stop what they believed was about to be the ritual slaughter of a goat on North Bach early on Friday.

Although there are nets off Durban’s beaches, Mike Anderson-Reid said such rituals should not be encouraged. “If sharks are in the area, there is a likelihood of them being attracted,” he said.

He cautioned that if such practices were to be more frequent, they could invite serious shark hazards. Slaughtering rituals had been an issue raised during investigations into shark attacks at Port St John’s over recent years. He said increased shark attacks off Recife, in Brazil, was attributed to the spillover from a coastal abattoir.

Jeremy Cliff, a scientist with the Sharks Board, said that until very recently, fishing had been allowed on the piers at North Beach. “All the bait fishermen threw into the water on a busy day would have brought greater levels of attraction than a few entrails,” he said, adding that ritual slaughtering on beaches would also present a hygiene issue.

It was a complete “no-no” on beaches with Blue Flag status, which North Beach had been in 2007. “Domestic animals are not allowed on Blue Flag Beaches,” said Ted Knott, national coastal programme manager.

The participants in the ritual that was called off on Friday had travelled to Durban overnight from Ladysmith. They moved off the sand without putting up any resistance.

One of the group, who gave her name only as Phumzile, insisted that they had no plans to slaughter their goat. Later in the day, sandcastle builder Phumlani Khumalo backed up Phumzile’s claim. “They don’t slaughter them on the beach. They bring them to the water to be blessed, then take them back to wherever they come from to be slaughtered,” he said.

Metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Eugene Msombi said such incidents happened from time to time. “Where possible, we try to dissuade them and advise (police) members to be as polite as possible,” he said.

A lifeguard, who would not be named and who had witnessed the incident, said he knew from previous incidents that the goat would only have been “blessed” on the beach and not slaughtered.

Independent on Saturday