Monday, January 14, 2013

Whale sharks may pass Sabah islands

Between January and March, visitors to the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP) will be told to look out for whale sharks.

Several sightings of whale sharks have been reported close to Sapi Island and Gaya Island over the past years, mainly to feed on plankton.

At the end and beginning of the year, the water is slightly colder and according to divers, when the water gets chilly, it means the whale sharks are coming.

University Malaysia Sabah's Borneo Marine Research Institute director Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa said sightings of whale sharks at TARP were not unusual and they were significant.

"While this place is frequently visited by dolphins, occasionally, whale sharks use this passage after a gap of a few years.

"They travel over long distances, covering thousands of nautical miles and move at a slow speed.

"When the migratory route is large, the journey will take years to complete," he told the New Straits Times.

This, he added, was one of the reasons for the rare sightings and if the whale shark passing by the marine park was old and the journey too long, Sabah folk might not get to see it again.

"It could be a different specimen making a foray into our waters and there could be many reasons for their presence at the marine park."

He said it was difficult to tell why an animal as enormous as the whale shark (more than 12m long and weighing more than 20 tonnes) with a broad distribution in the world oceans developed a site attachment to a relatively small geographical area for regular visits.

"It is hard to establish a definite pattern in their sighting at one place based on their brief forays into TARP.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Whale sharks may pass Sabah islands