Whale Sharks Coming Early to Donsol, says WWF

Whale Sharks Coming Early to Donsol, says WWF

The magnificent butanding swims in Donsol, Sorsogon in the Philippines (Photo by Jurgen Freund/WWF)

The magnificent butanding swims in Donsol, Sorsogon in the Philippines (Photo by Jurgen Freund/WWF)

More and more whale sharks (known in the Philippines as butanding) are being seen arriving earlier than usual off the waters of Donsol, Sorsogon, the World Wide Fund (WWF) reported.

The whale shark is a frequent visitor to the Coral Triangle ecoregion of which the Philippines is a part. Nongovernment and development organizations have initiated programs to protect this fragile, yet very valuable marine ecosystem.

In the report, the WWF said Philippine sightings of the magnificent butanding have begun as early as November.

The whale sharks usually come in from December to May, which is the start of the butanding season in Donsol, one of the few places where whale sharks are known to congregate.

The fishers in communities around Donsol used to kill and slaughter whale sharks for their meat, but eventually turned to protecting the gentle giants for ecotourism.

Community members now act as guides for butanding sightseeing tours which proved to be more lucrative than hunting the animals. Local and foreign tourists would often flock to Donsol for a chance to “interact” with the butanding or even swim alongside the animal.

“Whale sharks congregate in Donsol because of all the food,” said WWF-Philippines Project Manager Raul Burce. “Plankton blooms occur when nutrients are discharged by Donsol’s rivers. To ensure that the bay remains healthy, we must protect Donsol’s rivers.”

WWF is also studying the composition and range of food in and around the bay and that extensive plankton and water parameter studies are being regularly conducted in strategic stations.

Computer-assisted whale shark photo identification, as well as satellite tagging, which the WWF has been spearheading since 2008, are being continued to establish the number of sharks visiting Donsol, and to better understand where they go, and when.

Five years of research have already identified 380 whale sharks in Donsol, the WWF said.


(Story and photo courtesy of WWF. View the original article here.)

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