A luxury resort in the Maldives has set up a facility to aid research into whale sharks that inhabit the waters around the South Ari Atoll. Diva Maldives has opened the Marine Biology Centre to raise community awareness about whale sharks and give its guests a chance to take part in ongoing studies into the world's largest living fish species.
Divers and snorkellers exploring the rich reef ecosystem in the South Ari Marine Protected Area regularly encounter whale sharks. The year-round presence of these fish around the atolls in Maldives, and efforts to maintain it are the focus of ongoing research.
Experts have been monitoring several individual whale sharks as part of the study, with the latest one tagged WS159 and named Stephanie after a Diva guest who spotted the animal. "It was a small animal, only about 3.5 - 4.5 m long. The shark was in very good health, with no signs of injury. The size of the shark shows its young age," said marine biologist Chiara Fumagalli who heads the new facility. As part of its awareness drive, the centre organises a Whale Shark Education Day every week where guests can listen to presentations on the whale shark and go on reef snorkelling trips to see them in the wild.