Whale sharks are true giants of the oceans, growing as big as a double-decker bus. They can dive up to 980 metres and migrate over vast distances- one shark was recorded travelling over 13,000 kilometres in 37 months!
No man-made environment, no matter how large, can accommodate the needs of a whale shark. Evidence has shown that they fare poorly in captivity. For example, in 2007, two whale sharks died within five months of each other in a “state-of-the-art” Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta the United States. Several other whale sharks have perished in aquariums in Japan. Little is known about the status of whale sharks in the wild, but it is believed that their numbers are declining and they are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In 2006, plans were announced to bring wild-caught whale sharks to Singapore for display at a new proposed marine life park, to be built at Sentosa Island, Singapore by Resorts World Singapore.
In conjunction with International Whale Shark Day on 30 August 2008, ACRES, together with the Singapore Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Nature Society (Singapore), issued a joint press release to publicly speak out against the planned importation of whale sharks for the marine life park, on both welfare and conservation grounds.
In 2009, ACRES, together with seven other NGOS, including LoveSharks, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and SPCA Singapore, launched an online campaign- whalesharkpetition.com- to generate public support for their call for Resorts World Sentosa to scrap their plans of importing the whale sharks. An innovative Facebook application- Whale Shark Gamble- also spread the word, together with eye-catching postcards which were distributed throughout Singapore.
In May 2009, we were delighted when Resorts World Sentosa announced that they no longer intended to import and display whale sharks at the marine life park, and we applaud Resorts World Sentosa for taking this progressive step.
However, because of contractual obligations, Resorts World Sentosa may still be required to bring whale sharks into the new marine life park.