A shark which was suspected to be rare to UK shores had its head, tail and fin removed by suspected ‘trophy hunters’ just hours after it was found dead on a beach in Hampshire.
Conservationist had hoped to study the 8ft-long shark after it was found by locals on Lepe beach on Saturday – but it was butchered before they could collect its carcass.
TV historian Dan Snow, who was asked to help preserve the shark, told the BBC researchers were hoping to see the teeth and the head as they believed the animal could be a smalltooth sand tiger shark, usually found in warmer waters.
He criticised those who removed its body parts and urged them to return its head so scientists can study it, saying: “We have recovered a good chunk of it but some trophy-hunters got there just before us and they took the head and the dorsal fin on the tail.”
He said this was “really disappointing” as the group had been asked to preserve the carcass by scientists because it was a “once-in-a-lifetime find in British waters”.
He said it was a rare opportunity for scientists, who wanted to study the shark to “help us learn about our oceans and the ocean health and climate change”.
The TV star also put out an appeal on Twitter for the individual who removed the head to return it so it could be examined, adding they could keep the head afterwards.
Dr Ben Garrod, professor in evolutionary biology at the University of East Anglia, said it was important for scientists to see the shark as it offered a “snapshot” of animals living in international waters.
“The oceans cover 71 or 72 per cent of our planet, however it’s still incredibly mysterious.
“Every time we see a whale beaching or a shark washing up, this is like finding a Roman hoard or Viking daggers.”
The remains of the shark will be collected by the Zoological Society of London on Tuesday for study.
The population of the species has declined by around 80 per cent in European waters in the last 60 years, with overfishing being blamed for dwindling numbers
Photos and footage of the creature were shared on social media widely after it appeared on the beach.