UPDATE — April 14
There is still no decision on the Whale Shark Sanctuary in Kenya, but recently, more conservationists have spoken out against it. Check out this article to get the update: Whale shark ‘enclosure’ plans in Kenya ‘flawed and misguided.’ And, if you’re curious, take a look at Mr. Bassen’s Facebook post about the benefits that this sanctuary will have. It sparked quite a debate and everyone has very strong opinions. What do you think?
The plans for the Sanctuary began three years ago and now depend on the environmental impact assessment, conducted by the National Environment Management Authority.
The enclosure is located in Waa, between Diani and Mombasa on the South Coast. It is sectioned off by a thick net that measures 2,000 meters by 600 meters.
Visitors will pay around $100 per person to enter the park where they will have a three hour marine awareness lecture, followed by one hour swimming with whale sharks.
EAWST says there are two purposes for the park: the first is to generate revenue that could be re-invested in whale shark conservation efforts, and the second is to establish a research center and potential breeding program. The park will also create many new employment opportunities for local residents.
The enclosure will hold two whale sharks at a time. Then, when whale sharks in the wild are migrating closer to the coast–which happens twice a year, typically between September and October and again in February or March–the whale sharks will be released and replaced with two new ones. This is part of their effort to ensure that the animals don’t spend their whole lives in captivity.
The sharks will be caught with a padded tail-rope attached to heavy buoys that will prevent it from swimming away and will tire it out. Once it is exhausted, they will take it to the park.
Some conservationists feel that it is unnecessary and cruel to take animals from the wild and showcase them like this. Many say that it’s more about money, not conservation or education.
Volker Bassen, founder of the Waa Whale Shark Sanctuary disagrees. “If you ever have a chance to swim with whale sharks, you will never forget the magical experience,” he said. “You will become an ambassador for the protection of these majestic animals for the rest of your life.”
What do you think? Is Volker right in thinking that swimming with these creatures will change people’s perspectives? Or will the park to more harm than good? Tell us in the comment section below…
To learn more, check out some of these links:
- Kenya whale shark safari swims in controversy
- March 2012 – You can swim with whale sharks in a Kenyan sanctuary
- Watch two videos on whale sharks and the sanctuary: Part 1 and Part 2
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.