Abu Dhabi: A striking whale shark, spotted along the quay at Port Zayed in Abu Dhabi yesterday, drew a small crowd of admirers and environmental enthusiasts – and one onlooker got into the water to try to swim with it.
However, the four-metre long shark, with its characteristic white spots, was quick to shy away.
Mohana Rao, a marketing executive who alerted Gulf News about the sighting, was in the Port Zayed area around 1pm when she heard about the gentle giant.
“It is such a beautiful animal and I wanted to help because I was not sure if it needed any assistance,” Rao told Gulf News. “It has been swimming back and forth along the quay for a while now.”
Dr Thabit Zahran, director of the marine environment research centre at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), says that it is not unusual for the whale to be found in UAE waters at this time of year.
“Whale sharks are normally found in the Gulf, and they are a threatened species,” explained Dr Zahran. “They feed on plankton, which is found abundantly in ports due to the eutrophication process (results in nutrient-rich environments that support a dense plant population). So maybe this is why this whale was attracted to the area.”
Dr Zahran added that the whale may have deliberately made its way to the port to feed, but that it most likely lost its way. “Sometimes we have to help them to make their way out.
We will monitor the situation today and if it appears to be in danger, we will try to lead it out, although they can be quite stubborn.”