Salvation for sharks? Around the world, humans are feeding sharks and stingrays in the name of science

The furor over finned creatures at London Zoo reopened Monday after scores of Twitter users tried to prove they were harmless creatures.

The debate began Friday when British tabloid The Sun published an article on the value of feeding some of London Zoo’s animals to other creatures. The article included dozens of photographs of stingrays, stingrays and tiny silver manta rays swimming alongside and with red bottlenose sharks, African swimmers and sting rays.

The pictures and text were accompanied by a lengthy caption that suggested the sharks were in danger of extinction and that these animals were the only hope of saving the sharks. The intent was to make the sharks visible as symbols of the failure of those who want to eradicate them.

Then came the Twitter backlash. Several readers’ replies were abusive, one user wrote that “If you haven’t gone into hiding at this point, you are definitely an animal lover as the vile individuals who took over the national news have led you to believe.”

The Sun responded by removing the article from its website and apologizing “unreservedly.” The Sun removed and apologized for a piece on why it sold out the Briffa donkeys. — Rachael Jackson (@rachael_msj) January 25, 2018

Anticipating a similar response, Twitter users began posting more photos of stingrays happily swimming alongside sharks. The posts included everything from stingrays looking at sharks to stingrays teaching other stingrays about the sharks. One user wrote, “She was definitely barking cute while she was getting up close and personal with a shark.”

This #sharknation frenzy has been going on for ages, but my favorite part has to be the huge close ups of the stingrays — #AbsorbFlavours (@AKBenita) January 26, 2018

The original article did not point out that the stingrays had a few wrinkles, but as the debate has gained traction, users have pointed out that they themselves are wrinkles that are more impressive than a shark’s teeth.

Although zoo staff tried to take the heat off of the stingrays by sending tweets explaining the dangers of sharks, many readers apparently have enough self-awareness to see the contradictions within the story.

The Sun clarified on Monday: “While we stated that the sharks had been eaten by fish, which some suggested was shady, it was meant to highlight the fact that some fisheries are no longer eating sharks. That if they weren’t eating them, they wouldn’t be going extinct,” a representative wrote in an email to Slate.

The zookeepers working at the London Zoo, a charitable organization, had certainly tried to pry down the flames. In response to many of the negative tweets, the zookeepers wrote: “They were NOT poisoned. Chill!”

They continued: “They were NOT harmed. They were simply moved to a location that wasn’t the area they were in. They know NOTHING about the details.”

Still, the sharks are not going extinct any time soon, even without the finned creatures, no matter how crazy they think the headline was.

The headline might have come from the headline writers, but in the end, it belonged to human beings who spent their time torturing creatures they thought were a threat to them. As Cecil the lion, not a finned creature, galloped off, it would behoove the zookeepers and The Sun to stop torturing them, too.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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