Whale shark with extreme scarring, probably caused by a boat propeller
For the love of Neptune, that poor poor shark.
Propeller contact is a common threat to whale sharks, who spend some of their time feeding at plankton blooms near the surface. With ever increasing boat traffic in the oceans, we’ll be seeing more and more of these.
Whale Shark iPhone cosy…
Taken with Instagram
Sally is this Captain Hook? :-)
Nearly getting eaten by a Whale Shark in Oslob…all in a days work!
So I turn up to Oslob to take over this project, and I find two of my volunteers are fellow tumblrita’s. One of whom (diving-dork) I was already following and her me! Exciting tumblr-loving-times.
I digress. Sally, of above reblog, has worked with the WWF whale shark project in Donsol and is an aspiring nature/conservation videographer. Armed with her GoPro she filmed some of the craziness. This is Bender mistaking Sally for some plankton. Om nom nom.
Looks adorable, but when you realise you could fit in their mouth, the cute turns into formidable and you can be forgiven for screaming (ahem, Sally).
NB. This was taken with a wide-angle lens. So it was A LOT closer than it appears.
Double Trouble (Rhincodon typus) by Samantha Craven
Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) by Samantha Craven
So remember when I said this place was crazy? Here’s the proof.
On my first day, some excitable volunteers laid out the cold hard truth. These giants aren’t always so gentle. Unlike truly wild Whale Sharks, and more like a hungry dogs, these sharks don’t particularly mind if you are in the way of their food. Size matters and all that.
I was regaled with stories of sharks like “Ripper” and “Diver Eater” bumping into people, chasing bubbles from their fins, feeding boats running over your head giving barely any warning.
I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I wear it on my face, which must have looked a sight, because these university students looked aghast and desperately tried to pull me back from the spiraling thoughts of “what the hell have I just signed up for?” by telling me it’s not that bad.
The biggest fish in the world sneaking up on you from behind, like a grey and white spotted ninja, and then ramming into you is not that bad. Right.
Turns out it isn’t SO bad. Ripper definitely has it in for me (and everyone else), but adapt and survive. This equates to looking over my shoulder every minute. Or listening for the warning laughs and hoots from the feeders. And the sharks are fair. They sneak up on you from the front as well (see above gif).
It’s surreal. They appear so tame when they are being fed - it’s a situation we as humans can easily relate to. However several tonnes of grey and white spots and stripes suddenly taking up your field of view isn’t. And that tail. That bone breaking tail is awesome. In the true sense of it inspires awe. I have sworn into my snorkel and clenched by sphincter several times already. The sharks not always so proficient with the latter and have provided a few samples.
We have no idea how feeding these sharks will affect their life history, behaviour, health, but I’m willing to let them bump me to find out…
The Tuki Chronicles Part 2: The locals
Part two is my favourite. Not least because these are the people that say good morning to me every day, the people who laugh when I get chased or shit on by a shark, the people who tell me when there’s a new shark, and who help me make sense of this seemingly chaotic situation.
I am, after just a couple of weeks, already extremely fond of my life here. As
blood boiling frustrating as it can be watching tourists trample on these sharks (and they do), or to worry what changes the feeding might instill in their behaviour, it is such a pleasant place out of the water. And I get to swim with whale sharks everyday.
The Tuki Chronicles Part 1
Although the Filipino for Whale Shark is ‘Butanding’ - Tuki is what they are affectionately called in Oslob where, to much controversy, they are being fed.
These are the same whale sharks I’m leading a research volunteer project on. It is not a simple black and white situation (when is it ever?), though it may appear so at first. The political and community aspects must be considered in order to best protect these sharks.
The Tuki Chronicles are a series of documentaries telling the Tuki story. Though the makers of this documentary are completely unrelated to the project, I hope it gives you an idea of what I’m up to at the moment.
Part 1 is about the tourists that come, Part 2 which follows is about the local community that I’m just getting to know.
Whale shark suction feeding
Whale sharks feed on wide variety of planktonic (microscopic) and nektonic (larger free-swimming) prey.
Unlike most plankton feeding vertebrates, the whale shark does not depend on slow forward motion to operate its filtration mechanism. Rather, it relies on a versatile suction filter-feeding method, which enables it to draw water into the mouth at higher velocities than other filter-feeders, like the basking shark.
The whale shark can capture larger more active nektonic prey as well as zooplankton aggregations. Therefore, the whale shark may be more dependent on dense aggregations of prey organisms. The denser filter screens of this shark act as more efficient filters for short suction intakes, in contrast to the flow through systems of basking shark.