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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rethink idea of having whale sharks in Sentosa lagoon

Letter from Thomas Paulraj Thamboo Straits Times Forum 19 Oct 06
full article

I READ with great interest the various attractions that two of the
bidders for the Sentosa integrated resort have proposed to build
('Bold plans, big investments promised by IR bidders'; ST, Oct 17).

However, I was concerned by one of the ideas proposed by one of the
bidders.

This is the proposal to keep whale sharks in a lagoon where visitors
could snorkel or dive with the creatures.

Whale sharks are majestic animals. They are the largest fish on the
planet, capable of exceeding 12m in length. They are gentle filter-
feeders, feeding on plankton.

Due to their size, filter-feeding habit and their observed tendency
to perform occasional deep dives, these creatures need to be in the
open sea, and a body of water the size of a lagoon (even a big
lagoon) would inevitably put constraints on their natural behaviour
and mode of living.

Some aquariums/oceanariums, notably those in Japan, have kept whale
sharks with mixed success.

There may be a certain educational value to having captive whale
sharks for visitors to observe and even interact with and this may
raise awareness of the protected species.

However, this may not outweigh the negative effects on these large
animals which ought to be able to range freely in open water.

I would love to dive with a whale shark, but not if it means keeping
one of these creatures captive.

The proposed lagoon can be populated by smaller fish species that
will not face space constraints in the way that whale sharks would.