|An adolescent 4.5m whale shark washed ashore approximately 1.2km north of the St. Lucia Swimming beach. These whale feed exclusively on small food like plankton and pelagic fish. Their mouths can be up to 1.5 meters wide. And although docile, they have been known to attack fishing boats. However only when the angler is fighting a large fish like a tuna (M.M. Smith - Sea Fishes of Southern Africa). They are common off northern KwaZulu Natal and Mozambique. And in fact occur in all tropical and subtropical waters, both inshore and deep ocean waters.The species was first identified in April 1828 following with the harpooning of a 4.6 m (15 ft) specimen in Table Bay, South Africa. It was described the following year by Andrew Smith, a military doctor associated with British troops stationed in Cape Town. Research indicates that these sharks can reach lengths of up to 19 meters! However other unofficial reports have indicated that whales sharks have been measured in excess of 23m. Which would make them heavier than many of the migratory humpback whales, that are currently found off the Zululand coast.|
At the time of the photograph, no autopsy had been done. Neither were there any major visible physical damage/injuries. Although there were fairly large krill or shrimp-like deposits along the shoreline, deposited by the last tide. This could have been a possible reason for this beaching. The whale shark may have been too close inshore and due to inexperience got stranded while feeding too close inshore.
Copyright: Kian”Shaka” Barker - registered South African tour guide. - www.shakabarker.com and Sponsored by AmaZulu Lodge www.amazululodge.com