Manila, Philippines – A photo of a “butanding” (whale shark) used by a girl as a surfboard sparked anger in the Filipino online community after it was posted on social networking site Facebook.
The photo was posted last March 31 by a certain Liza Sesaldo, who said in its caption that it was taken in Oslob, Cebu.
Filipino netizens, including ABS-CBN travel show host Kat de Castro, condemned the act and asked officials in Oslob to “get your act together.”
“OSLOB, CEBU! Get your act together! Whale sharks are not surfboards. I condemn this act!” De Castro said on Twitter, posting the photo of the hapless whale shark.
Oslob Mayor Ronal Guarin denied that the incident occurred in his town.
“(This photo) is definitely not from Oslob,” Guarin told Cebu Daily News, adding that he has ordered an investigation into the incident.
Fishermen in Oslob have been feeding whale sharks with baby shrimp for decades, making them rise to the surface of the water to the delight of tourists.
Tourists, however, are barred from feeding or swimming with whale sharks.
Edmundo Arregadas, regional head of the coastal marine management division, earlier said he had discouraged Guarin from continuing the practice of feeding whale sharks, citing a “negative effect on the natural way of life of the whale shark.”
“By feeding the whale sharks, the giant fish might become dependent on handouts from people,” Arregadas told Agence France-Presse.
He added that this may make whale sharks at risk of colliding with other boats, or be caught and killed by poachers.
Whale sharks measure as much as 39 feet long, but are classified as harmless by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. (www.abs-cbnnews.com)