Category Archives: Whale Shark events

Whale Sharks On Magical Kenya!

We are so excited! Expedition 2008 is on the Kenya Tourism Board website www.magicalkenya.com This is HUGE for us 🙂 and we really grateful for the support we have received from the KTB in publicising our project. We think that Expedition 2008 couldn’t have come at a better time for tourism in Kenya. We have had so much support from so many people as we have prepared for Expedition 2008. The local business community have really stood behind us and helped out with various services. My inbox is flooded with mails from people wanting to come and participate and phone doesn’t stop ringing. Our little office (such as it is in a corner of my living room) is swamped. And we are loving it! It shows that people care about whale sharks, that they are interested and excited about our work, that they feel it is worth supporting. All we are hoping to do, in inviting the public to participate (at a fee), is to cover our costs which are extremely high because of boat and plane fuel costs. We feel that it is important for the public to get a chance to see the researchers working. It is a once in a life time opportunity! Our banner is up along Diani beach road and our posters are everywhere (thanks to the Colobus Trust www.colobustrust.org for helping us put them up). Everyone in Kenya is talking about whale sharks!

Expedition 2008!

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WHALE SHARK SATELLITE TAGGING EXPEDITION 18 FEBRUARY – 2 MARCH 2008 DIANI BEACH KENYA

Come and take part in our annual whale shark satellite tagging expedition on Kenya’s beautiful south coast. Meet world renowned scientists and underwater videographers. Join us on our daily whale shark safaris. Watch the research team tag the world’s biggest fish. Swim with whale sharks! Support our ground-breaking research and be part of our team.

You can expect to see whale sharks everyday and your boat will be guided to the sharks by a spotter plane. Your whale shark safari will last around 4 hours leaving at 11am. Divers leave at 8am and will do one dive before joining the expedition. Please bring your own refreshments!

Snorkelers 6000/- per trip (@ USD90)

Divers 8000/- per trip (@ USD125)

Accomodation 1500/- per person per night at Watano House self-catering (@ USD 25)

3950/- per person per night at Pinewood Village Hotel on half board basis (@ USD 60)

For bookings please contact Nimu on +254720293156 or [email protected]

We are grateful for our kind sponsors for helping us make this expedition a reality and a success.

Southern Cross Scuba www.southerncrossscuba.com

Diani Fishing Club www.dianifishingclub.com

Pinewood Hotel www.pinewood-village.com

Leisure Lodge Resort www.leisurelodgeresort.com

Kinondo Kwetu Hotel www.kinondo-kwetu.com

East African Wildlife Society Highlights Whale Sharks

We are delighted to announce that the latest edition of the East African Wildlife Society’s magazine Swara included an article on our project entitled “A New Dawn For Whale Sharks In Kenya”. The article describes the work we do here at the project, the problems we face with the use of traditional fishing nets and how we are trying to overcome this.

Swara is a quarterly magazine owned by the East African Wildlife Society, a non-profit making organisation formed in 1961 following the amalgamation of the Wildlife Societies of Kenya and Tanzania themselves both founded in 1956. It is the Society’s policy to conserve wildlife and its habitat in all its forms as a regional and international resource.

The impala is the symbol for the East African Wildlife Society. “Swara” is the Swahili word for antelope.

Have a look at their website www.eawildlife.org

Thank you Swara!

Peace in Kenya!

It has been quite a week here on Diani beach. First we had a huge fire on 27th December which destroyed the 2 largest shopping centres and brought the beach to a standstill. We were really lucky not to lose our house as the fire was raging just across the road. So many houses here have makuti (dried palm leaves and similar to hay) so they all went up in smoke in double quick time. The devastation was total and so many little kibandas (road side kiosks) were flattened as well. It was terrible to see. Needless to say there was then no internet connection for a few days.

Then we have had such upheaval and turmoil after the presidential elections. There have been riots and skirmishes, looting and even shootings. Consequent food and fuel shortages followed suit because most things have to come across the ferry to the south coast. Ukunda village is the worst hit with no unga (flour) and other food stuffs at all. We have all tried to pull together and get on with life. We haven’t really felt like travelling to far afield and New Year’s eve was a very low key affair. Today there were eggs in the shop for the first time in a week!

So we continue to soldier on. Things are not as bad as reported by the international press. And we have Katya Grineva, the concert pianist, here with us. She played for the whale sharks at Diani Reef Hotel on New Year’s day and we were going to go to Nairobi to do a big charity concert next weekend. Unfortunately this is most likely going to be cancelled so we are staying in Diani and will do a series of Peace Concerts at Leisure Lodge Hotel. Katya will play for whale sharks and for peace in Kenya.

Two positive things amidst all the madness: My children’s book about a whale shark is also going to be published which is great news 🙂 and we have been given an accoustic array to start accoustic tagging. We still need an official sponsor so that the project can run all year round. But we are optimistic that 2008 will be a good year for whale sharks in Kenya.

So we at the East African Whale Shark Trust wish you a happy and peaceful 2008. We hope it marks a new beginning for all of us.

1000 whale sharks!!

1000th whale shark spotted off Africa.

Michael Perry | November 29, 2007 – 2:53PM

The 1,000th whale shark, a rare and threatened species, has been discovered by researchers using a global programme in which eco-tourists and scientists identify new sharks and lodge photographs on an online library.

“It’s a major milestone, for science and for conservation,” said ECOCEAN project leader Brad Norman in Australia.

“It was achieved with the help of ordinary people worldwide who want to study and protect this wonderful creature,” Norman told Reuters on Thursday from Perth in Western Australia.

The whale shark is the world’s largest fish, a slow-moving filter feeder that can grow to around 12 metres (40 feet) and weigh up to 21 tonnes. But it is difficult to study, remaining in deep ocean for months and only rarely rising towards the surface.

ECOCEAN tracks individual whale sharks around the world’s oceans using a Web-based photo-ID library (www.whaleshark.org) which catalogues each whale’s unique spots.

Researchers and eco-tourists submit images, which are logged to reveal a picture of whale shark movements and behaviour.

The 1,000th whale shark, a 6.5-metre male, was recently reported by marine biologist Simon Piercea in Mozambique. Piercea has contributed more than 100 sharks from his three-year study in Mozambique.

“We can expect there to be substantially more than 1,000 sharks alive in the world today,” said Norman. “But, even so, it is still a very tiny global population that needs close monitoring to ensure its survival.”

Participation in the ECOCEAN library has increased dramatically in recent years. It took three years to identify the 500th shark but only one additional year to reach 1,000.

ECOCEAN’s Web site tells readers how to photograph a whale shark, warning swimmers to stay at least three metres from the shark for fear of upsetting it.

It also explains how to photograph the left and right side spot patterns above the pectoral fins, which create a unique “bodyprint”, for identification.

“We’re calling on the public worldwide to become ‘citizen scientists’ and help us study this wonderful animal by logging their images and sighting details,” said Norman.

“The data will help us determine their numbers, movements and identify critical breeding and feeding grounds which need to be protected. This will build a better understanding of this threatened species and help save the largest fish in the ocean from extinction,” he said.

REUTERS

ECOCEAN is celebrating a 1000th identified whale shark thanks to global efforts by hundreds of ‘citizen scientists’ and eco-tourists. The 1000th shark was reported by a major contributor to the ECOCEAN Photo-ID Library, Simon Pierce, a marine biologist studying sharks and rays in Mozambique.

Volker and I met with Brad Norman at the International Whale Shark Conference in Perth in 2005. We gave him all Volker’s footage to add to his database. We are very excited aboutt his news. This is a picture of all the delegates of the conference. Brad is the smiley guy second in from the back on the right.

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Music for Whale Sharks

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We were in heaven last night with Katya Grineva, a world renowned concert pianist, playing for whale sharks. Katya’s playing was sublime, beyond magic, beyond dreams. Here is an excerpt of the speech I made –

“Good evening everyone, it is an absolute pleasure to welcome you all here at the lovely home of David and Channa. This is a landmark event. A world renowned concert pianist has come to Kenya to play for the whale sharks. Even standing here now I can’t quite believe it! We are extremely honoured to have Katya Grineva here with us this evening. For those of you wondering the whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean, it is a shark not a whale. It can grow up to 18 metres long and can weigh up to 20 tons. It is a plankton feeder, meaning it is completely harmless. It spends a large part of its time on the surface, making it vulnerable to capture.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have plenty of whale sharks just outside our main reef. In many parts of the world, whale shark fins and liver are sold for exorbitant sums. The East African Whale Shark Trust want to curb any possibility of such trends taking off on our shores. Under the international agreement CITES whale sharks are on Appendix 2 meaning that their slaughter is allowed but any trade must be monitored. Almost all experts in the field agree that this protection is inadequate and many organisations including this one continue to lobby fiercely for increased and complete protection which would put them on Appendix 1. The potential for eco-tourism is huge and the trust has various projects to try and raise awareness, the primary focus being that the whale shark is more valuable to us alive than dead.

“The main threat whale sharks face in our waters is getting entangled in the traditional nets used be fishermen. In many ways we are lucky that this is about the sum of our problems. Our fishermen are keen to work with us and there are very simple, easy ways to introduce better fishing techniques. In other parts of the world, particularly in the Far East (Japan in particular) things are much bleaker and the whale shark is specifically targeted for its fins, liver and meat. They are seen as a delicacy. Some of you might know that the whaling season in Japan started a few days ago. Over 1000 whales will be killed over the next few months, something completely unbelievable to me.

“The divers among you or those who have seen a whale shark already will know what I am talking about when I say that these magnificent creatures are an awesome sight. Their presence is an indicator of a healthy marine ecosystem so the very fact that they are here is a good thing. It is curious and at the same time wondrous that the biggest fish in the ocean feeds on the very smallest.

“It is unknown at present why there has been such a dramatic increase in whale sharks along our coastline – it could be because of the mantis shrimp invasion after El Nino or it could be linked to congested shipping lanes. So much is unknown when it comes to these gentle giants. We don’t know where they go to breed or how they take care of their young. Their migration patterns remain a mystery. We are currently working on initiating an aerial survey project together with the KWS. This will be the first major step of many in trying to learn more about them.

“What we do presently at the trust is run awareness campaigns, do presentations in schools and hotels, workshops with fishermen to teach them more environmentally friendly fishing techniques, run tagging expeditions with international researchers, volunteer programmes and local monitoring. This year marked the first ever satellite tagging whale shark expedition off the East African coast – we tagged 3 sharks with satellite tags and in doing so made history! Each time the scientists come here they get more and more excited. This year we were fortunate enough to have funds donated for a spotter plane – this made all the difference and was really key in making the expedition such a success. We already have more than 2 groups of researchers and journalists with satellite tags lined up for next season.

“By coming here tonight and supporting this innovative project, you will help uncover the mystery surrounding the whale shark. We want to completely ban the killing of whale sharks in our waters so that we can learn more about this fish. You will help put Kenya on the map as a whale shark haven. For that on behalf of the trust, I thank you all very much especially Katya and our kind hosts.

“Let me end with a story – there is a local legend that when God created the whale shark he was so pleased with his handiwork he gave his angels handfuls of gold and silver coins to throw down from heaven into the sea. The coins landed on the whale shark’s back. So the story goes that the whale shark swims near the surface, catching the sun on its beautiful markings as a way of saying thank you to its maker.

Thank you so much for coming here tonight to hear beautiful music played for whale sharks.”

Katya is coming back in January to play for the general public at the National Theatre on January 12 and 13. Put it in your diary now!!