‘THEY'RE SAFE'

Natural instincts saved them from ‘Pablo’ wrath, researchers say

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The whale sharks in Oslob town in southern Cebu were spared from Pablo’s wrath as they have an in-built warning system that prompted them to dive deep into the water to escape the strong currents whipped up by the typhoon.

The Italian-based research group Physalus led by Dr. Alessandro Ponzo said that the whale sharks that frequent the town tucked themselves under the sea as the typhoon pummeled southern Cebu last week.

The southern towns of Cebu were placed under signal number  3 and experienced stronger winds and heavy rains compared to the rest of the province.

The wharf and other structures in Oslob, Boljoon, and Santander towns were damaged after they were hit by strong waves caused by typhoon Pablo last Tuesday.

Physalus through its Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines has been conducting research on whale shark tourism interactions in Tan-awan, Oslob. They monitor and take pictures of the whale sharks every day.

“The day when the weather was very bad they  left and probably just went some 2,000 meters deep in the sea,” Ponzo told  Cebu Daily News in a telephone interview.

The day after typhoon Pablo made its exit, only a few whale sharks were sighted.

Yesterday, four were spotted by boatmen and researchers.

Before the typhoon struck, at least 12 whale sharks frequent the shores of Tan-awan and were documented by Physalus

On a regular day,  50 to 100 tourists go to Oslob – about three hours by bus from Cebu City – for whale shark watching. On weekends or holidays, Oslob averages 150 to 200 tourists a day.

“So far there is no problem. The problem is that these uyap (tiny crustaceans) which the whale sharks feed on got blown away by the wind and the waves. We are not sure if there is still uyap in the area,” Ponzo said.

Boatmen, who bring along tourists, feed the whale sharks with uyap to make them come closer to their paddle boats. /Marian Z. Codilla, Senior Reporter

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