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EditPhoto Title:Track Whale Sharks
EditPhoto Description:Watch in real-time the world’s largest fish, satellite-tagged in eastern Indonesia
EditImage Url:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_24400754.jpg
EditImage Description:Mark Erdmann swims with a tagged whale shark.
EditPhoto Credit:© Shawn Heinrichs
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EditText:You need nature. We protect it. Find out how.
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WE’VE LEAR​NED A LOT

In 2015, Conservation International (CI) scientists in Indonesia performed a first: We attached satellite transmitters to the dorsal fins of whale sharks. These transmitters had never been mounted on whale sharks because the species was simply too big to catch — so our scientists partnered with local fishermen who had inadvertently captured whale sharks in their nets, then dived in to attach the transmitters before releasing the sharks. Working with our partners at the Georgia Aquarium, we’ve learned a lot about the charismatic species, including their migratory movements and diving behavior — much of it new to science.​​

FOLLOW THE SHARKS IN REAL-TIME

CI Sharks Map & Slider

Sharks ​​Previously Tracked

Our fin-mount satellite tags have a maximum battery life of two years. Here’s what we learned from sharks with decommissioned tags.

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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/144883.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #144883 “Sharky McSharkface”
EditCaption Title:144883 “Sharky McSharkface”
EditCaption Description:This 4.5-meter-long whale shark - named in an online naming contest - is now a world-record-holder for the longest satellite tag data series from a whale shark: 25 continuous months. He stayed largely in Cendrawasih Bay and recorded an impressive dive of 1,288 meters (4,226 feet) - a depth that would crush a human to death.
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/153664.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #153664 “Wally”
EditCaption Title:153664 “Wally”
EditCaption Description:During the 15 months his tag was active, this 6-meter male closely hugged the coastline of New Guinea, stopping for weeks at a time at the large river outlets he encountered along the way. He was likely targeting the baitfish schools that can be abundant in the coastal waters off these big estuaries. He clocked 3,800 kilometers (2,361 miles) during his 15 months of travel.
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/158580.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #158580 “Kodo”
EditCaption Title:158580 “Kodo”
EditCaption Description:“Kodo” won the contest for West Papuan whale shark with the most stamps in his passport: The 4-meter-long (14 feet) male swam northwest to Palau, then to the Philippines, then back down to Indonesia, into Australia, then back to southern Papua, Indonesia. He also spent a majority of the past 9 months in a mangrove swamp and mud-flat region — not the type of habitat we usually think of for whale sharks.
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/151097.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #151097 “Fijubeca”
EditCaption Title:151097 “Fijubeca”
EditCaption Description:At only 3 meters (about 10 feet), this male was one of the smallest but, interestingly, clocked the greatest distance: more than 9,000 kilometers (5,592 miles) since October 2015. Equally as remarkable, Fijubeca has visited eight of the marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Bird’s Head Seascape, reaffirming that these MPA’s nicely encompass the migratory routes of marine megafauna.
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/144884.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #144884 “Blue Bandit”
EditCaption Title:144884 “Blue Bandit”
EditCaption Description:Blue Bandit was a frequent deep diver (recording a maximum of 1808 m) and a long-distance traveller - leaving Cendrawasih Bay, travelling north to Palau, then down through Raja Ampat and into the Arafura Sea. He had clocked 3,735 km and nearly reached Australian waters at the time his tag stopped transmitting, apparently due to damage to his antenna!
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/144886.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #144886 “Satria & Jude”
EditCaption Title:144886 “Satria & Jude”
EditCaption Description:One of the first sharks we tagged, 7m-long Jude spent most of his time travelling around Cendrawasih Bay (where he occasionally dived to the very bottom of the bay at 1250m depth), and also made one trip along the northern Papua coastline to Jayapura and then back to Cendrawasih (similar to the travels shown by his colleague Wally). We removed his tag after 19 months when his antenna was damaged.
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/158582.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #158582 “Pongo”
EditCaption Title:158582 “Pongo”
EditCaption Description:A 6m male, Pongo was a real "homebody," remaining within Cendrawasih Bay for the entire length of his deployment. During that time he dived to a maximum depth of 768m.
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/144881.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #144881 “Mitch”
EditCaption Title:144881 “Mitch”
EditCaption Description:4m-long Mitch managed to visit 7 of the Bird’s Head MPAs during his one-year tag deployment. During this time, he dived to 1336m and travelled nearly 3,300 km - including a northward jaunt into Palauan waters and two trips to Raja Ampat before returning to Cendrawasih Bay.
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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/158584.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark #158584 “Merlin”
EditCaption Title:158584 “Merlin”
EditCaption Description:Like his colleague Pongo (tagged at the same time in February 2016), 4m Merlin remained within Cendrawasih Bay for his entire 19-month tag deployment. He dived to a maximum depth of 360m during this time. He is frequently spotted by tourists visiting Cendrawasih, with numerous sightings reported from November 2017.
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EditHeader:THE RESEARCH
How are sharks tagged, and what have we learned?
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    EditSection Title:How are sharks tagged?
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    Local fishermen call CI scientists when whale sharks are inadvertently caught in their nets. Before the sharks are freed, scientists attach a satellite transmitter to their dorsal fin, with minimal disturbance to the animals. The transmitters’ batteries last about two years, and data is relayed whenever the shark’s fin breaks the water’s surface.

    In 2017, we downloaded 25 months’ worth of high-resolution data on diving and migratory behavior from the tag of one shark, affectionately named Sharky McSharkface — the largest data set ever recorded for this species.

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      EditSection Title:What have we learned?
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        EditImage URL:/sitecollectionimages/ci_26445564.jpg
        EditImage Description:Three young whale sharks looking for a meal.
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        A satellite tag has shown that “Moby,” a 15-foot male, has one of the deepest recorded dives of any whale shark at nearly 6,000 feet — more than a mile beneath the water’s surface. Other notable findings include:

        • These whale sharks (tagged in West Papua, Indonesia) are not as migratory as many believed. They disperse periodically in different directions, covering distances up to 1,000 miles, often to return to ‘home waters’ in a matter of weeks.
        • They are very individualistic, going their own ways for reasons unknown. We’ve tracked two males of similar ages with utterly different migration habits, one largely staying put since we mounted his tag, while the other has ventured into the western Pacific.
        • The tagging site where whale sharks feed is only a few hundred feet deep, but when they travel farther afield, they dive remarkably deep.

          Read more on CI’s blog, Human Nature.
        EditLink for Header and Image:http://blog.conservation.org/tag/sharks/[Optional]
        EditPhoto Credit:© Shawn Heinrichs
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          EditSection Title:CI’s partnership with the Georgia Aquarium
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            EditImage URL:/sitecollectionimages/ci_41199766.jpg
            EditImage Description:Sometimes the overly-enthusiastic whale sharks are inadvertently captured in the bagan’s baitfish nets, allowing us a unique opportunity to then operate upon them and deploy a fin-mounted satellite tag before releasing them.
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            Conservation International collaborated with Georgia Aquarium to carry out health exams and blood draws on 20 wild whale sharks to provide baseline health and ensure animal welfare during our tagging research. The results have indicated that tagging does not cause additional stress to these whale sharks.

            Combining the aquarium’s expertise on whale shark care with CI’s experience on the ground in West Papua, we are working together to ensure that whale shark tourism — a growing and lucrative industry — is managed sustainably and doesn’t adversely impact the animals’ health.

            EditLink for Header and Image:http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/animal-guide/georgia-aquarium/home/galleries/ocean-voyager/gallery-animals/whale-shark[Optional]
            EditPhoto Credit:© Shawn Heinrichs
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              EditSection Title:Two whale sharks named by social media!
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              EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/sharks/144884.jpg
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              In the spirit of Shark Week 2016, we asked our online community to name whale sharks #144883 and #144884. After receiving nearly 800 submissions, we tallied the votes and found two clear winners that will now be used by the CI scientists studying these majestic creatures.

              See the winners

              EditLink for Header and Image:/act/pages/name-this-shark.aspx[Optional]
              EditPhoto Credit:© Conservation International/Photo by Mark Erdmann
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                EditSection Title:Kids adopting whale sharks
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                  EditImage URL:/sitecollectionimages/ci_84847481.jpg
                  EditImage Description:Whale sharks in Cendrawasih Bay feeding on baitfish beneath a bagan lift net vessel.
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                  Conservation International recently launched a school program in Singapore in which students can adopt individual whale sharks and use this tool to track their progress daily, enabling them to learn about whale shark behavior and the ecosystem on which this species relies. The program aims to encourage greater awareness of the importance of healthy marine ecosystems and humans’ effect on them.

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                  EditPhoto Credit:© Shawn Heinrichs
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                    EditSection Title:What is the Bird’s Head Seascape
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                      These sharks are tagged in the waters of the Bird’s Head Seascape in West Papua, Indonesia — an area that is home to a wider array of marine creatures than anywhere else in the world. These waters, spanning an area the size of Great Britain, boast 75 percent of all the world’s coral species and more than 1,700 species of fish. This rich biodiversity increases the area’s resilience to stressors such as climate change, potentially offering clues for how coral reefs can adapt to warming seas.

                      Learn more about the Bird’s Head Seascape

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                      EditPhoto Credit:© Keith A. Ellenbogen
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                      CI Sharks CTA

                      FROM THE BLOG

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                      EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_96278191.jpg
                      EditImage Alt Text:Silhouette of a whale shark in Indonesia
                      EditCaption Title:Update: What we’re learning about the world’s largest fish
                      EditCaption Description:Check out what we've learned after two years of tagging whale sharks.
                      EditRead More Text:Read More
                      EditRead More Link:http://blog.conservation.org/2017/08/update-what-were-learning-about-the-worlds-largest-fish/[Optional]
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                      EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_60482993.jpg
                      EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark in Cendrawasih Bay, part of the Bird's Head Seascape.
                      EditCaption Title:Whale shark watch: 4 things we've learned from tracking the world's largest fish
                      EditCaption Description:As Shark Week kicks off, check out the latest science on these ocean giants.
                      EditRead More Text:Read More
                      EditRead More Link:http://blog.conservation.org/2016/06/whale-shark-watch-4-things-weve-learned-from-tracking-the-worlds-largest-fish/[Optional]
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                      EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_39187252.jpg
                      EditImage Alt Text:A diver swims with a whale shark in Indonesia’s Cendrawasih Bay
                      EditCaption Title:Whale shark ‘bling’ could unlock mysteries of giants of the deep
                      EditCaption Description:Technological advances are bringing us closer to understanding the world’s largest fish.
                      EditRead More Text:Read More
                      EditRead More Link:http://blog.conservation.org/2015/07/whale-shark-bling-could-unlock-mysteries-of-giants-of-the-deep/[Optional]
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                      EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_76091510.jpg
                      EditImage Alt Text:A diver swims with a whale shark in Indonesia’s Cendrawasih Bay
                      EditCaption Title:Newly discovered whale shark population brings tourism potential to Indonesian communities
                      EditCaption Description:The more we know about the animals’ behavior, the better we can help communities value and protect them.
                      EditRead More Text:Read More
                      EditRead More Link:http://blog.conservation.org/2014/08/newly-discovered-whale-shark-population-brings-tourism-potential-to-indonesian-communities/[Optional]
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                      EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_18232569.jpg
                      EditImage Alt Text:Whale shark in Cenderawasih Bay Marine National Park, Indonesia.
                      EditCaption Title:Field notes: what it’s like to tag whale sharks
                      EditCaption Description:An expedition ventures into Indonesia’s Cendrawasih Bay to expand scientific knowledge about the world’s largest fish.
                      EditRead More Text:Read More
                      EditRead More Link:http://blog.conservation.org/2011/11/tagging-whale-sharks-in-indonesia-part-1/[Optional]
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                      EditPage Link:http://ci-intl.org/294OCNk
                      EditTweet Text:Find out where eastern Indonesia's whale sharks are hanging out today via @ConservationOrg #SharkWeek
                      EditTwitter Page Link:http://www.conservation.org/projects/Pages/Track-Whale-Sharks.aspx
                      EditLinkedin Title:Track Whale Sharks in Real-Time
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                        More of Our Work Links

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                        EditTitle:Dive in to “Valen’s Reef”
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                        EditImage Alt Text: Manta Ray, from Conservation International's VR debut, “Valen’s Reef.” © Conservation International/John Martin
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                        EditTitle:Bird’s Head Seascape
                        EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_65657554.jpg
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                        EditImage Alt Text:Wayag Lagoon, Bird's Head Seascape, Indonesia. © Will Turner
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                        EditTitle:What kind of shark are you?
                        EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_12758657.jpg
                        EditLink:/quizzes/Pages/What-kind-of-shark-are-you.aspx
                        EditImage Alt Text:Hammerhead sharks swimming in the ocean. © Daniel Kwok/Flickr Creative Commons
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