Madagascar has long been known for its diverse wildlife, famously depicted in the 2005 film, Madagascar. Its lemurs, exotic birds, rare chameleons, and cat-like fossa are all well known. Now it seems that it also home to whale sharks.
A recent study has shown that the isolated island is home to a large whale shark population. Published in the in the Endangered Species Research journal, the Madagascar Whale Shark Project identified over 85 whale sharks. The world’s largest fish was found off the coast of Madagascar, around the island of Nosy Be.
Consisting of researchers from Mada Megafauna, Marine Megafauna Foundation, and Florida International University, the team tagged several whale sharks to better track their movements and discovered a major hotspot of the marine creatures near Pointe d’Analalava.
Whale Sharks Found In The Indian Ocean
These waters were previously known for their population of sea turtles, migrating humpbacked whales, and manta rays. The numbers of whale sharks, especially during the September to December period was a surprise to the researchers, as they were a completely undiscovered population.
The whale shark can also be found in the Indian Ocean around Mozambique, Tanzania, Djibouti, Seychelles, and the Maldives. However, recent years have seen a decrease in numbers, often due to overfishing and boat strikes. This has led to whale sharks being put on the RIUCN RedList as a globally endangered species.
It is hoped that the new population will help boost Madagascar’s emerging ecotourism industry, and that access will be well managed by the country. It could become a major destination for animal lovers.