Cristina Zenato has a passion for wildlife and conservation that has led her to take on a very daring job that few people would dream of doing: swimming with sharks.
These sharks that Cristina encounters are often suffering from hooks caught in their mouths.
She recalls this one day when a particular shark, Foggy Eye, did something unusual and swam up beside her. The normally elusive creature had a wire hanging out of its mouth and allowed Cristina to get close to it and pet it. From there, she worked on gaining the shark’s trust before making the oh-so-bold decision of, “I’m going in!”
Article continues below
Our Featured Programs
See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!
Seizing the moment of opportunity, Cristina actually reached into the shark’s mouth in order to pull the wire hook out! And ever since, Foggy Eye seems to be much friendlier and actually seeks out her attention now. This new-found trust between her and Foggy Eye has encouraged other sharks to swim up to Cristina in order to allow her to help them free themselves from hooks that are caught in their mouths. Some of them are easily removed, while others may take a couple of weeks – either because they’re stuck or there needs to be a little bit more trust built up between Cristina and the shark.
It has been 20 years that Cristina has been working alongside sharks.
Since she was a child, she has dreamed of becoming an underwater scuba ranger. She had to goal to protect the reef and all the creatures that lived under the sea. She encountered her first shark while on a scuba diving trip in the Bahamas, where she did a live feeding and became enamored with sharks since that moment.
Cristina explained, “I went back home and dropped everything.”
She moved to the Bahamas to work with sharks, telling her family she’d be back in a year. However, it’s been 24 years and Cristina is still in the Bahamas, living her dream.
Now, the sharks recognize her and beg for her attention by swimming upright beside her.
She recognizes many of them, and they acknowledge her as well. Cristina has even given many of them names like Foggy Eye, Grandma, Stompy, and Trek. She refers to the sharks as her babies and enjoys the time she gets to spend with them underwater. She’s gotten so used to them that she’s able to identify their moods, recognizing when they’ve had a bad day or need a little extra love.
Cristina also does want most of us would fear to do: swim with sharks without a protective cage.
When she goes underwater, Cristina wears only a chainmail suit – citing that it’s only in the unlikely event that they might decide to bite.
“I call this the barrier that drops the barrier,” she says.
Wearing only the chain suit allows her to get much closer and personal with the creatures that most people would be terrified to encounter at sea. She’s managed to forge such an unlikely bond with them, that now the sharks will swim up to her lap, placing their mouths towards her stomach. There, they’ll rest while she pets them. The sharks become like little puppies for her, seemingly able to sense all the care and understanding and respect she has for them.
Cristina is determined to show people that sharks deserve respect as they’re not the killing machines or monsters that Hollywood has created. There is no doubt that Cristina has mastered how to treat these animals with the utmost respect. She and her sharks share such an incredible bond that most people will never get to experience for themselves. What an amazing woman.
What do you think of the bond Cristina has with the sharks?
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →