By Bohol Island News Staff| 02:36 PM December 20, 2019
After well-meaning groups and coalitions call for the stop of whale shark feeding in Lila, Bohol, this time the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines has made a similar call to stop the feeding of whale sharks there.
In a statement, WWF Philippines said that whale shark feeding severely affects their life cycles, migration patterns, and many more.
According to WWF-Philippines, as an endangered species, the nature of these animals should be respected when it comes to tourism-related activities.
“We call on Bohol’s local government to shift to a community-based whale shark ecotourism program, and to always consider whale shark interactions from both the lenses of community and economic development, as well as wildlife protection and conservation,” the statement said.
WWF-Philippines said that whale shark feeding is becoming more rampant and by supporting this practice, people are inevitably supporting the modification of their natural behavior, which might severely affect their life cycle, reproduction patterns, and their safety.
It said that “whale sharks migrate seasonally from the Philippines to areas such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Migration allows them to reach their mating, breeding, and pupping grounds. Feeding restricts their movement and hampers their migratory behavior, which can alter both their ecological roles and needs. When wild animals get used to being fed, they would inevitably seek out the source of this food and would start associating humans and boats with the likelihood of being fed. This makes them more vulnerable to hunting and boat collisions, causing death and for their numbers to dwindle. Feeding also alters the natural avoidance behavior inherent in wild animals, which is vital for their survival.”
Implementing a community-based whale shark ecotourism program can best help in managing whale shark interactions, it said.
WWF-Philippines has been working for 21 years in Donsol – a hotspot hosting one of the largest aggregations of whale sharks on Earth – with the local government unit and key tourism stakeholders, making the area a proof that sustainable whale shark ecotourism is possible.
The program has generated jobs for locals, many of whom are now trained as Butanding Interaction Officers, homestay owners, and associated service providers. By conserving whale sharks and promoting wild shark interactions, the Donsol community has benefited and has risen from a 5th class municipality to 3rd class.
WWF-Philippines strongly encourages local government units to look at whale shark ecotourism from both the lenses of community and economic development, as well as wildlife protection and conservation.
“WWF is open and ready to help the local government of Lila, Bohol in developing their own community-based whale shark ecotourism program, for the benefit of both locals and whale sharks,” the statement said.