Conser­va­tion: Strate­gies for whale shark protec­tion in the Maldives

The whale shark project in the Maldives, supported by Natucate, is dedicated to the protection of the endangered giants. Its two main approaches: Researching these fascinating animals as well as working with the public. Learn more

David
David
Nature
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The whale shark project in the Maldives, supported by Natucate, is dedicated to the protection of these fascinating but sadly endangered giants. The project follows two main approaches: Research work is supposed to provide information about population numbers, habitat and reproduction behaviour to be able to provide a suitable protection strategy for the animals. The second approach is about public relations to sensitize the local communities and the government about the critical status of the whale shark.

Research about whale sharks in the Maldives focuses on an existing protective area for whale sharks, founded in 2009, called “South Ari Marine Protected Area (MPA)” and includes the following topics: Through detailed documentation of whale shark sightings and the collection of data about water temperature, currents, access to food and underwater-noise researchers are trying to find an answer to the question why there are so many whale sharks around the Maldives. Furthermore, the demography, development of the population as well as size, sex and age, but also injuries or dead animals and possible causes are entered into a data base. With a socio-ecological approach the researchers also try to determine how humans and animals influence each other, where conflicts can develop and in which areas both parties profit from each other. Additionally, information about other (mega-) invertebrates like sea turtles, sharks, whales or dolphins are collected and studied with focus on their population density, behaviour and range.

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To be able to provide a suitable protection management, human activities around the habitat are also observed. The focus is on the kind of transportation (boat, surfers, jetskis or other vehicles) and tourist numbers in the protective area. The information are presented to national and regional officials which use the information as a foundation for the development of a sustainable management of the water areas and the establishment of new protective areas.

The project’s second approach serves to mobilize the local communities, regional tour operators and the government to become involved in the protection of the animals. Therefore, regular meetings are held with different lobbies and institutions like the federal “Environment Protection Agency” and the “Marine Research Centre”. School visits and presentations about species and nature conservation as well as excursions to the Southern Ari-Atoll are supposed to educate the local communities about whale sharks but also waste management and sustainability. There are also swimming classes for the local kids to make them familiar with their aquatic surroundings and awaken their interest for the marine life.

Finally, the aim is to promote and support volunteer projects and develop possibilities for practical education in the field, especially for students from the Maldives in the field of biology, nature conservation and wildlife management.
As a volunteer in our species conservation project for whale sharks in the Maldives you can become an active part in the protection of these impressive animals.

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