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The opportunity to observe or dive with mega fauna such as Whale Sharks, Basking Sharks or even within ecosystem events such as the Sardine Run are often high up on any wildlife enthusiast’s ‘to do’ list. But sometimes an exuberance to get as close as possible to the action, can stress the animal/s and put individuals in unnecessary danger.
Whale Shark watching operators in Mozambique have a ‘one boat per Whale Shark’ policy, although on quiet days this is not always observed. Crowding or harassing any animal is likely to cause them great distress, which not only devalues an individual’s experience but may cause the animal to act erratically. When dealing with larger animals, such as Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks, this can be particularly dangerous. Don’t forget that an 8m, seven tonne Basking Shark is more than capable of leaping clear out of the water - not something you want to land on your head! Similarly, whilst diving during an event like the sardine run you are placing yourself in the water with animals – not just sharks – that are motivated to feed.
Wildlife watching is becoming increasingly popular and to fully enjoy this experience it is important to respect the animal and act responsibly. This can be achieved by understanding how our actions impact upon wildlife so that we can minimise our disturbance. Awareness, responsibility and respect are key:
Awareness – Research the animals you will be watching and learn to recognise the signs they make when they feel threatened. Be alert, observant and patient, always ensuring the interests of the animal are put first.
Responsibility – Remember everyone is responsible for their own actions. If animals display any sign of distress move away quietly. Also consider the length of time you spend watching animals - the presence of people over long periods can be disturbing.
Respect – Always respect the wildlife, environment and other people. Leave the environment exactly as you find it.
The Shark Trust has developed Basking Shark Code of Conducts for swimmers and divers, kayakers and boat owners, which aims to ensure a safe, positive interaction between human and shark, as part of our Basking Shark Project.
We also advise individuals, looking to use tour operators based in the UK, to use a WiSe accredited company. Visit our Wildlife Safe (WiSe) page for more information.
► PADI also offer a variety of responsible diving courses.
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