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Mangō: Sharks and Rays of Aotearoa by Ned Barraud

New Zealand author Ned Barraud has written and illustrated more than 20 highly successful children’s books about our natural world. Mangō: Sharks and Rays of Aotearoa is the latest.

It is packed full of fascinating facts about these astounding creatures. And, as we have come to expect from this talented artist, the many colourful, detailed, realistic illustrations are a special feature of this book.

Early on in this book is a striking timeline which folds out to four pages to illustrate the evolution of sharks. This shows just how ancient they are, their ancestors having been around before the dinosaurs. Sharks are also some of the world’s greatest survivors, having survived all five of the planet’s mass extinction events!

In Te Ao Māori sharks were revered. Mythical mangō guided the ancestors as they crossed the moana in search of new lands in their waka. Māori immortalised mangō in their legends. The Arawa iwi are named in honour of a great mangō that saved their ancestor’s waka from being swallowed by the sea creature Te Parata.

Mangō were an important food source for Māori and Pacific peoples. From their teeth, they created precious necklaces and earrings. Their squalene oil, mixed with red ochre, was used to make a paint used on carvings. The mangō pattern depicting a hammerhead shark, a symbol of strength, courage, and power, is found throughout Māori art.

Before focussing on the sharks of Aotearoa, Ned Barraud explains the biology of sharks and what makes them unique. For instance, they are able to stay afloat in ways which differ from other ika (fish). And mangō are incredible hunters. As well as the 5 senses humans have, they have a super 6th sense that allows them to detect their prey.

It will undoubtedly come as a surprise to children that there are over 100 different sharks in the oceans around Aotearoa. On a double-page spread Ned Barraud has drawn a collection of them to show how they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ranging from the whale shark that reaches a massive 12 metres in length to the tiny pygmy shark which is just 27 centimetres long.

Three sharks have been singled out to feature in a chapter of their own, the Great White shark, the Shortfin mako, and the Basking shark. Then comes a chapter on other strange shark species that live in the deep sea, some over 1000 metres below the surface. They have evolved their own adaptations to survive in this extremely challenging environment. Some have curious names like Goblin shark, Frill shark, and Lucifer dogfish. Other sharks are pelagic i.e. spend most of their lives in the open sea. One is the cookiecutter shark who can scoop a circular plug out of anything that gets too close such as whales, seals, tuna and other ika.

Sharks are apex predators, but humans are not on their menu, except very, very occasionally. It is far more likely that a human will die from a bee sting, a dog bite or snake bite, or even be struck by lightning, then be killed by a shark.

Ned Barraud tells that only about 4 deaths are caused by sharks worldwide each year. But about 100 million sharks are killed each year by human activity. Overfishing and bycatch, climate change, shark finning and habitat loss are seriously depleting them.

Save the Sharks! he pleads “ The marine ecosystem is complex and carefully balanced and as apex predators sharks sit at the very top of the food chain. If mangō are removed, it has a knock-on effect down the entire food chain and the whole ecosystem could collapse."

In writing this book Ned Barraud worked closely with Te Papa’s sharks expert Andrew Stewart to gather information about sharks and to make sure he got all his facts right and that his illustrations were accurate. This has greatly helped to make it an invaluable resource for teachers and their students. It deserves a place in every school library.

Ned Barraud has a wonderful way with words which make science fun while simultaneously building children’s understanding of the important part sharks play in our eco system and why we need to protect them.

Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Te Papa Press

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