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Check out this footage of a striking pure white albino zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) Dr. Erdmann encountered at 55m off the eastern tip of Warakaraket in SE Misool, Raja Ampat.

“Zebra sharks (also known as leopard sharks) frequently return to the same reefs routinely, so guests diving this site should keep their eyes open!” says Erdmann.

The zebra shark and the leopard shark are the same species, which share two common names – both zebra shark AND leopard shark are in common use.  Why the discrepancy? As with a number of bottom-dwelling sharks including epaulette and cat sharks, the juveniles of this species have a strikingly different colour pattern than the adults. In this case, the young have a banded appearance similar to a zebra, while the adults, which may reach up to 3.5m in length, have a leopard-like spotting pattern. But of course there are always exceptions, such as this pure white albino zebra shark I recently filmed in Misool.  Sadly, zebra/leopard shark populations across SE Asia have been decimated by hunting for shark fin – we’re hoping the Raja Ampat shark and ray sanctuary will allow these beautiful animals to make a comeback over the coming years…

Mark Erdmann, PhD

Vice President, Conservation International Asia Pacific Marine Programs