The Philippines now officially hosts the second largest known population of whale sharks in the world.
Whale sharks or ‘butandings’ have already been sighted numerous times in the waters of the Philippines.
Finally, the country has been recognized to be the habitat of the second largest known population of whale sharks. The recognition was made by Wildbook for Whale Sharks; a photo-identification library that contains a visual database of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounters all over the globe.
Marine biologist and conservationist Melissa Cristina Marquez explained in a Forbes article that Wildbook for Whale Sharks uses “cutting-edge software to rapidly identify individuals, and the platform shows that the Philippines population stands at over 1,600 individual whale sharks.”
Aside from public users, the photos of whale sharks sightings were submitted mostly by scientists and conservationists of the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) and WWF-Philippines.
Mexico holds the number 1 spot for the world’s most number of whale sharks with more than 2,400. The Philippines also has one of the longest dataset on whale sharks in the world dating back to WWF-Philippines’ photo-ID research in Donsol in 2006.
In a press release by LAMAVE after Wildbook’s announcement, they highlighted the conservation efforts of the Philippines to be the best in Southeast Asia. Their statement read, “The Philippines’ progression to the number two spot, highlights the global significance of the archipelago for this endangered species, and emphasizes the country as a conservation leader for the species in Southeast Asia.”
“As well as being a significant milestone worldwide, this is also a conservation milestone for the species in the Philippines,” LAMAVE stated.
Back in March 1998, the Philippine government implemented a nationwide ban to forbid the killing, capture and consumption of whale sharks in Philippine waters. Later, Donsol, Sorsogon opened the first whale shark tourism destination. Now, “butandings” are an important part of Philippine tourism; drawing visitors from all over the world.