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Costa Rica

Genius River Bridge

One Costa Rican island is so beset by illegal shark poachers that the local rangers have built an entire bridge with their confiscated gear . 

The waters surrounding the small Costa Rican island of Cocos are infested with sharks, bringing with them poachers looking to cleave off some fins to sell. Yet thanks to the thankless efforts of local rangers, many of the illegal shark hunters are stopped, leaving behind the nets, lines, and buoys which have been collected to create the ramshackle Genius River Bridge on the island itself.

Thanks to the natural occurrence of a series of underwater hills around Cocos, the aquatic fauna is rich and diverse. Schools of fish come to feed on the nutrient-filled waters that crash around the submerged mountains, and shivers of sharks follow the smaller fish looking for a quick meal. Right behind the herds of sharks are fleets of poachers who try to pluck the toothy monsters from the water, carve off their fins and toss them back, alive and thrashing. Shark fin still fetches a high price around the world for use in such delicacies as shark fin soup, so a haul of the spongy rudders can mean a fortune. Luckily the apex predators in this modern circle of life are the island’s rangers who constantly patrol the waters to catch poachers.

Unfortunately, as is often the case on land as well, the criminals vastly outnumber the cops, so only a fraction of the fin hunters are ever caught. The government regulators don’t seem to be much help either, only passing cursory regulations such as “shark fins must be attached to a shark when brought to port,” a rule that reportedly led to unscrupulous poachers arriving with horrific shark bodies covered in crudely sewn on fins. However when the patrols do run off a poacher their gear is forfeit.

It’s with this gear that an artist named “Pancho” created the short Genius River Bridge which crosses over the small island waterway. Countless round floats are stacked along the bridges rigging which is also laced with rope and netting from the catches, creating not just a unique span, but in its way a living monument to the efforts of the rangers who devote their lives to keeping sharks safe.