Thursday, 09 August, 2012 | 17:30 WIB
Whale Sharks Stranded In Indonesia Due to Uneven Reefs, says Biologist
TEMPO Interactive, Bantul:Two whale sharks might have been washed up on the beaches of Bantul because of the uneven texture of the reefs on the south coast of Java, says Donan Yudha Satria, a lecturer in biology at Gadjah Mada University.
According to him, May to July is the reproduction period for marine animals living around the reefs and coral. During this period, sea biota sperm is released around the reefs attracting small fish and plankton to the abundant food source.
"Leopard sharks or whale sharks eat small fish and plankton. So, these big fish will definitely be coming to the areas around the reefs from May to July," Donan told Tempo on Sunday.
The period, he says, coincides with the drop in the earthís polar temperature, both in south and north, driving whale sharks to warmer waters.
It is when they are in the reefs in the south coast of Java that they are easily washed ashore, he said. Donan explained that the morphology of the southern coastal reefs was like a wave, a mountain, trough, and valley. "At high tide, they can swim to the valley on the southern coastal reefs, but at low tide they find it hard to swim back to the center because of their huge bodies," Donan explained.
The sharks are easily carried away by the waves back to the beach when they try to return to the sea after eating in the shallower parts of the reef.
Although the sharks can grow to the size of a whale, hence the name whale shark, they are not mammals and breathe through their fins. "This fish become weak quickly once itís been dragged by the waves to shallow coastal waters. Once limp, they are easily stranded," Donan added.
The whale sharks are an endangered species and have been named a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the IUCNís records, there are only 200 to 400 in the world.
Donan thinks the shark carcasses should be preserved for research and educational purposes.
Not surprisingly, explained Donan, in Indonesian the animals are called whale sharks (because their large bodies are the size of a whale) as well as leopard sharks (as they have spots like leopards). "But their preservation requires a lot of money. If thereís none, itís better to bury them. If itís allowed to be eaten, itíll encourage a public perception that it has powers and that will trigger the hunting of endangered species," he said.
On Friday night, another leopard shark was stranded in shallow waters on Pelangi Beachin Bantul. The size is similar to the one stranded at the Pandansimo Beach two days earlier. "At about 19:00 hours we received a report of a sighting from the villagers on the west coast of Parangkusumo, After midnight, it was approaching the coast and was still gasping for breath, but 4 hours later it had died," said chair of the Search and Rescue team on Parangtritis Beach, Ali Sutanto.
The evacuation process was quite difficult as the shark was as big as two fishing boats. Dozens of rescue team members and locals could only haul the shark away from the brunt of the waves. "We worked all night trying to pull it away from the waves but it was hard, too heavy," said Ali.
Now, the big shark is lying on the beach and is a spectacle for hundreds of people from around the area.
Program manager of Animal Friends Jogja (AFJ), an organization of animal lovers in Yogyakarta that continues to monitor this event, is organizing the disposal of the shark.
"On Monday AFJ will coordinate again with the SAR team and all related offices to make funeral plans for the shark carcass," said Dessy. ADDI MAWAHIBUN IDHOM