butanding, butanding, san ka nanggaling?

when i checked my email at work this morning i opened a message sent by a former german colleague of mine who is now based in brussels, and the subject of his email was: First ever baby-butanding discovered in the Philippines. it was a very cute title, i thought, and i assumed that maybe it was going to be a joke, but i was absolutely floored when i opened the attached photo. then as part of my regular morning ritual, i checked and found this news article. the discovery gave me such joy and hope and promise all at the same time, but also with a tinge of alarm that there still are uninformed members of society who are out to make an easy buck out of nature's bounty, but then again it reinforces my belief that this nation of ours is truly blessed, only that we should be more aware of these blessings, and not let them go to waste. read and be inspired.

‘Smallest’ biggest fish rescued in Sorsogon
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:43:00 03/10/2009

MANILA, Philippines—A 15-inch-long whale shark, considered by the nature conservation group WWF-Philippines as the smallest “butanding” ever, was rescued over the weekend in Sorsogon province.

Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, WWF-Philippines vice chair and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the animal was initially reported to have been caught on March 6 and tied up at Barangay San Antonio in Pilar town where it was put up for sale.

The town lies adjacent to Donsol, which “hosts what is arguably the largest known annual congregation of whale sharks in the world,” Tan said.

A team of experts and officials, which received the report on March 7, was dispatched to rescue the whale.

“They expected to see a giant animal helplessly stuck, its tall dorsal fin and tail sticking out of the water. But there was nothing there,” Tan narrated.

“All they saw was a stick, stuck in sand, with a small rope leading away from it into the water.”

Born in RP?

Elson Aca, WWF’s project leader in Donsol, walked up to the stick and Tan said he “was amazed to find the smallest whale shark he had ever seen—a mere 15 inches long!”

The whale shark is the world’s biggest fish.

Three hours after it was rescued, Tan said the team released it back to the sea.

Tan surmised that the “Pilar pup was so small” that it might have been born in Philippine waters. He added that it could have been what biologists call a “neonate.”

“Not only is this animal the smallest live whale shark on record ever to be captured and released here in the Philippines (and arguably, anywhere in the world), it is also the first indication that the Philippines, at the apex of the Coral Triangle, is probably one of the places on the planet where these giants of the sea are born,” Tan said.

He noted that scientists had thought of Donsol as a mere “gas station” along the global network of marine highways where whale sharks cruised.

Nursery of the seas

“This new discovery is the first ever indication that this coastline may actually be a ‘birthing site.’ This comes as no surprise. After all, all this happened in the Coral Triangle—the nursery of the seas—where life begins, and many things remain possible,” Tan said.

The discovery of the whale sharks in Donsol has turned the sleepy town into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

According to Tan, visitor records indicate that over the last six years, 95 percent of tourists that flock to Donsol in the season that runs from December to mid-May have been able to interact with the whale sharks.

read my own accounts of my encounters with these gentle giants. i just find it amazing how this small thing could grow to be as big as a bus. these marine animals are apparently ovoviviparous, which means that the eggs remain and are hatched inside the mother's body, so this effectively dispels my previous ideas that butandings deposit eggs the size of tricycles on the sea floor. hahahaha.

this summer, do something magical and swim with the butandings. it will instantly be one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have.
I'm sure they mistook it for janitor fish, ha ha. They look alike. Local fishermen and farmers routinely exterminate the latter, which they consider a pest that eats the local aquatic fauna.
do janitor fish also survive in sea water? i know there are many of them in the laguna lake and pasig river. hehe.

but other than the stripes and spots, yeah, they do resemble each other. :D