Prosecute butchers of butanding - WWF
- Katherine Adraneda () - February 18, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An international conservation group is calling for the prosecution of people responsible for the “butchery” of an 18-foot butanding (whale shark) on the shores of Tingloy town in Batangas, with the marine animal’s dorsal and pectoral fins cut off.

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) believes poachers from a nearby town could be responsible for the illegal act and urged all sectors concerned to step up enforcement efforts across the country to prevent a repeat of the incident.

Based on the documentation of WWF-Philippines, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) was fighting for its life when it was found floating belly up in the rough waters of Bahay Kambing, a sheltered cove in Tingloy town.

The WWF-Philippines said the whale shark’s twin pairs of dorsal and pectoral fins were neatly sliced off, as knife marks were evident all over its tail.

Linda Reyes-Romualdez, owner of the Casita Isabel Resort, said scuba divers from Mabini’s Acacia Resort first discovered the mutilated shark last Monday morning.

She recounted that the shark was then towed to the nearby Caban Cove, where waters were more placid. 

Together with Bantay Dagat members, volunteers splinted the shark by flanking it with bamboo poles and installing a net underneath to minimize further injuries and ease the marine animal’s pain.

“Sadly, its wounds were too great – and the shark, nicknamed ‘Tingloy Baby,’ died the next day,” said Gregg Yan, information, education and communications officer of WWF-Philippines. The butanding was buried in Caban Cove on Tuesday morning. 

This tragic incident came as some 50 countries vowed to protect seven shark species, including the butanding, following the approval of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that is deemed the first international cooperation for the conservation of shark populations in the Indo-Pacific region.

According to WWF-Philippines, Bantay Dagat units from Mabini reported that for several days, fishing vessels equipped with powerful strobe lights have been operating in Mabini waters, sometimes as close as 300 meters from shore.

Responding to complaints from local resorts, the Bantay Dagat and local police asked the fishermen – who were reportedly from Lemery town – to leave the area. 

The group said the fishermen left, but returned several nights later, this time in adjoining Tingloy town.

WWF-Philippines said Mabini authorities were not able to respond directly because the area was under Tingloy’s jurisdiction. And so, the group said, the fishing went on until concerned divers informed Mabini officials of their grisly discovery. 

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) director Malcolm Sarmiento said a full investigation would be conducted to track down and prosecute the culprits.

Sarmiento committed BFAR’s support until a better enforcement strategy can be developed between the towns of Mabini and Tingloy. 

“This is a real eye-opener, for it proves that the slaughter of endangered species – even one as big as a butanding – can still take place if we let our guard down. The public and private sectors must come together to refine and polish current conservation mechanisms,” said Joel Palma, vice president of WWF-Philippines Conservation Programs. 

WWF-Philippines said Filipinos have hunted whale sharks for decades. The waters of Bohol, Misamis Oriental and Sorsogon were once fishing grounds for butanding hunters.

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