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An Australian who was nearly killed in a great white shark attack has won the right to keep a tooth from the animal stuck in his surfboard.
Surfer Chris Blowes lost his leg and was in a coma for 10 days after being attacked in South Australia in 2015.
The shark’s tooth was embedded in its board, but state rules prohibit people from owning parts of protected species.
Now the state has granted him an exemption, and Mr. Blowes says he’s keeping the tooth as a “souvenir.”
Mr Blowes, now 32, was surfing in Fishery Bay in April 2015 when a 5.5m long great white shark hit him from behind.
“It rocked me and played with me for a while,” he told the BBC. “And he ended up removing my leg.”
After being brought ashore by two friends, Mr. Blowes was treated by paramedics and taken to Adelaide hospital.
“My heart had completely stopped and they had to administer CPR until I showed signs of life,” he says.
When police went to retrieve his surfboard, Mr Bowes said, they found a shark tooth lodged in it. In accordance with South Australian law, they turned him over to the authorities.
“And then from that day on, I was not allowed to see the tooth,” says Mr. Blowes.
Under the state’s Fisheries Management Act, it is illegal to own, sell or buy any part of white sharks – and those who break the law can face a fine of up to AU $ 100,000. (£ 55,000) or two years in prison.
Mr Blowes says he repeatedly asked officials if he could have his tooth returned, but it was only after a local politician heard about his case that an exemption was granted.
“It was stuck in my board,” Mr. Blowes says. “I would never kill a shark for its tooth but it took my leg [so] I don’t see any reason why I can’t have this.
“The shark does not get its tooth back [and] I don’t get my leg back. “
This is the first time the state has granted a waiver of the law, according to the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, SA (PIRSA), ABC News reported.
David Basham, Australia’s minister for primary industries and regional development, said giving Mr Blowes back his teeth was the least his department could do.
“Chris obviously had an extremely traumatic experience and I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help,” Mr. Basham told ABC.
Mr Blowes says he keeps the tooth in a case at home and takes it in motivational talks he gives about his attack.
“It’s a great memory to show my grandchildren,” he says.