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WILDLIFE Where the whale sharks are
There’s a surprising amount that we don’t know about whale sharks.
We don’t know where they mate, where they give birth or why they dive so deep, up to 2km.
The fishermen on Cenderawasih Bay’s bagan platforms are helping Indonesian and Australian researchers learn more about these gentle giants.
The fishermen give the juvenile males a small portion of their daily catch of bait fish to keep them around.
This image may look shocking, but the shark will swim out of the bagan net, unharmed, once it has finished feeding.
Because the whale sharks are so relaxed in these bagan environments it’s very easy to tag them to learn more about their behaviours.
Each whale shark has its own unique polka dot spot pattern on the skin, rather like a fingerprint, which can be used for identification and tracking.
Local villagers in Cenderawasih Bay call it gurano bintang or starry shark since the spots look like the stars in the Milky Way.
Based on data from 22 fin-mounted satellite tags, researchers say the sharks don't appear to migrate from the bagan nets.
It seems the ready supply of food at the bagan platforms is reason enough to stay.