CAPE TOWN – A young female whale shark that took refuge in Knysna estuaries since the weekend has been declared dead, according to SANParks.
The Knysna-Plett Herald reports that the animal beached on a sandbank over the weekend, with SANParks experts suggesting it had been seeking warmer waters.
“On Saturday around 16:00 we got her as far as the Ashmead Channel and were hopeful she would swim out to sea,” SANParks’ Owen Govender told the Herald, “but she was seen again in the vicinity on Sunday morning heading towards Leisure Island.”
Despite the best efforts of honorary SANParks rangers and the NSRI, however, the creature could not be helped, and was declared dead on Tuesday morning.
© Knysna-Plett Herald The whale shark in Knysna’s waters.
Govender explains that the beaching was most likely the result of extremely low tides due to the current spring tide, and that the cause of death was probably due to a change in water temperature.
Whale sharks are the largest sharks in our planet’s oceans, growing up to a whopping 12m long. They are popular tourist attractions in several countries due to their docile nature and sheer size and beauty.
A popular destination for prime whale-shark diving along our coasts is high up on the east coast, around St Lucia and further north to Mozambique.
As was the case with this individual, the animals do travel right down the east coast, keeping to warmer waters.