We’ve swam with whale sharks, locally known as butanding, in Donsol, Sorsogon. We were required to undergo a few minutes of film showing on the dos and don’ts when interacting with the butanding. a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO), whose duty is to remind guests of the guidelines and to ensure everyone is safety (that goes for sharks and humans), is assigned to each group. We were told to stay a few meters away from the butanding, do not block its path, and DO NOT touch them. Imagine our shock when we saw someone STANDING ON a butanding allegedly in Oslob, Cebu.
We thought the girl in the photo is learning to surf, that she’s stepping on a surf board. A closer look revealed that she’s stepping ON a whale shark.
We are glad there’s another tourist spot where tourists could interact with butandings We saw that in one TV show, where it was shown that tourist guides actually FEED and TOUCH the whale sharks. An environmentalist said it’s a no-no. Now this photo. Environmentalists and NGOs on animal welfare are allegedly tracing the identity of the persons in this photo (update: they were able to trace her).
We came across this poster, courtesy of ProjectAware.org, which contains the basic GUIDELINES when interacting with whales sharks.
Please do not abuse our wildlife. We are no wildlife experts, but common sense tells us this is NOT the way to interact with butandings or whale sharks in the wild. When we protect our wildlife, we protect our tourism assets.