Tata companies pitches in to save whale shark

GN Bureau | August 31, 2015



To celebrate a decade old conservation project, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the Gujarat Forest Department, and Tata Chemicals (TCL) have formed a team to commemorate International Whale Shark Day and their success in protecting the whale shark since the launch of the project in 2004. Their combined efforts has ensured that the fish, once popularly known as 'barrel', found its pride on the wildlife map of Gujarat, next to the Asiatic lion, as Vhali, the loved one.

As of July 2015, 498 whale sharks have been rescued and voluntarily released by fishermen back into the oceans. With the religious leader Morari Bapu lending his voice against the killing, the whale shark today has become an icon of conservation and pride in the vast shoreline of Gujarat.

In the next phase of the Whale Shark Conservation programme, India’s first ever whale shark satellite as well as marker tagging programme has been initiated. So far, four whale sharks have been tagged with satellite transmitter to understand the migratory patterns of the specie and know more about this mysterious creature. Moreover, 132 fishermen were given training on deploying marker tags on the rescued fish that could reveal more about the population of this mysterious creature.

Speaking on the initiative, Alka Talwar, Head of Corporate Sustainability (CS) at Tata Chemicals, said, “Biodiversity conservation is intricately weaved into Tata Chemicals’ business philosophy, and we will always undertake initiatives and campaigns that forward the cause and educate people about the need for conservation. Today, we are proud to say that the decade long whale shark conservation campaign has successfully saved over 498 whale sharks. As always, Tata Chemicals will continue to strongly support the whale shark campaign to save our natural heritage, and help communities to learn more about Whale Shark Conservation.”

“We need more information about the behavioural and migration patterns of this specie that enjoys Schedule1 status under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, but is not studied as much as others in this category. This is also the reason why so little is known about these magnificent creatures. Science can help us understand these beings better and draft a conservation strategy that will ensure their survival in the deep blue seas,” said Prof BC Choudhury, Senior Advisor and Project Investigator, WTI.

WTI recently signed a MoU with the with Indian Institute for Science Education and Research, Kolkata (IISER-K), to understand the ecosystem health of whale shark habitat along the coast of Gujarat and generate robust scientific dataset from plankton and benthic fauna (bottom dwelling animals-mainly in sediments). WTI, in partnership with fishermen, Gujarat Forest Department and Tata Chemicals Ltd., has also reached out to thousands of students in Gujarat through awareness programmes like painting competitions, quizzes, rangoli, etc., to ensure that the future generations become stakeholders in whale shark conservation.

Moreover, WTI is taking the whale shark conservation from the west coast to the east coast with support from the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department and EGREE Foundation and is signing an MOU in Kakinada on the International Whale Shark Day.

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