Whale Shark Reply

The previous blog has apparently ruffled some feathers. A blog of course is not a scholarly article and need not be peppered with citations. It is an opinion piece, a mere two cents in the ongoing conversation about the incident in Oslob.

In the Facebook page of the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, the admin wrote in reaction to the concluding paragraph of the previous blog:

We do not agree with this anthropocentric point of view, ecosystems and its components have existed for millions of years. Modern man only 200,000 years. The natural world cannot not (sic) evolve instantly and will not be able to adapt to what we are doing/have done to the planet in the past 100 years. As what has been said – we need nature more than she needs us. We need to be part of the solution to address the threats, not to be part of the problem.

The FB page admin clearly misunderstood the blog article’s point. What the blog stressed is the inseparability of our practices from what is currently happening to the natural environment. Our influence on every ecological niche is pervasive that we have become a force in the adaptation of other species.

As a consequence, we have been seeing species, both flora and fauna, devising new strategies to contend with the anthropogenic influences on their habitat. For example, tarsiers stalk freshly turned cornfields to forage on crickets and other insects exposed in the process of cultivation. There are a few other iconic examples: macaques raiding agricultural farms, polar bears and penguins losing their habitats because of the melting of glaciers, among others. Needless to say, even if the whale sharks are left alone in the middle of nowhere or dive deep into the depths of the ocean, they would still bear the mark of humanity’s impact on the planet (e.g., rising sea temperatures due to human-related factors,  mercury contamination, climate change, water pollution, etc.).

What is central for any substantial change to happen is to involve people by creating conservation programs that increase the stake of communities towards the species in question. Without creating that connection, communities could spell doom to any conservation program. The previous blog article thus explored the possibility of a community-driven and conservation practices-based feeding strategy for the whale sharks because of its potential for boosting reproductive success and increasing community participation. In concert with marine habitat enhancement activities, supplemental feeding could be redirected in such a way that the feeding will be beneficial (or has minimal impact) to the animals. By actively managing tourism (and pulling it closer to conservation), the activity has to be sensitive to the dangers of habituation and to the feeding ecology and social behavior of the whale sharks.

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