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Whale Shark Research
Due to the nature of the Whale Sharks environment, it is extremely difficult to study and make accurate conclusions on many aspects of Whale Shark biology, ecology or behaviour. Without an understanding of, for example, what constitutes Whale Sharks critical habitat – the habitat characteristics essential for survival – it is impossible to fully protect either the Whale Shark or the habitat.
Probably the most accurate and useful tool for studying Whale Sharks is telemetry. This involves attaching a radio or satellite transmitter to the Whale Shark and then using the signal to track the movements of the shark over the life span of the transmitter. This method provides very accurate data on the movements of Whale Sharks and other behavioural information can be inferred by assessing oceanographic and physical conditions around the Whale Sharks location.
The biggest problem with telemetry is the logistics and cost. The finances involved with maintaining and running a boat, crew and equipment is great but the cost of using a satellite is exorbitant.
Marking individual whale sharks with tags is a useful tool for Whale Shark researchers and a variety of tags are in common use. If you see any tags while diving with Whale Sharks please attempt to record any information that may be printed on them without approaching too close to the animals.
A cheaper but equally accurate tool to investigate the Whale Sharks habitat and migration is photo-identification. Photo-id programmes involve members of the public, dive operators and scientists taking photographs of individual characteristics, such as scars and pigmentation patterns, which are unique to that animal. These photographs, along with the associated information about the animal, are then added to a database, which matches animals that have been photographed previously, providing valuable data on the Whale Sharks’ biology, ecology and movements over time.
Whale Shark Research:
The following companies undertake Whale Shark research around the world:
➤ Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) - The Shark Trust supports the MWSRP through the Whale Shark Adoption Program, which raises vital funds to support their work.
➤ Whale Shark Research on the Belize Barrier Reef (Florida Museum of Natural History)
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