Since my whale shark adoption, I’ve been getting interesting e-news from WWF. “Whale shark” caught my eye in today’s issue, and again, I’m reminded of my bucket list of “Things To Do Before I Die”.
Oh, how I miss diving.
Sidetracking a little, I noted that my NSA’s president, Nicholas Fang (also an NMP), has joined the FINished with Fins movement. Nice!! Need more prominent people to lead the way. I had the chance to share about my stance too during Thursday’s office lunch gathering, and the revelation that 6 months ago I was still having my bowl of shark’s fins hit me. I felt so strongly about this cause when I was telling my colleagues about it, it seemed as if I’ve never had shark’s fins before. And I thank God for giving me the wisdom- knowing what to say, how to convince my colleagues- to reach out to people in opportunistic moments.
I would like to continue to chart my journey in this blog, regardless of a blog audience. It’s important, because I do feel that nonchalance creeping up on me. It’s a gradual thing that comes as I go about with daily work- internship, fencing, chilling out at home, meeting friends over the weekends, indulging in shopping. All these urban-ness just points me towards self-gratifying and being materialistic. I need moments to contemplate about life in other parts of the world and other food chains.
Below, the website copy and paste.
By Catherine Plume, Coral Triangle Director
I arrived riverside at dusk in Donsol, an island town in the Philippines. The world was just taking on its magical evening spell as our boat pulled away from the pier and headed up the river.
The night itself was spectacular—no moon, a million stars, and the hush of the river with only the sound of the sputtering motor as we glided along. Soon we cut power and our boatman poled us towards shore.
As we neared the riverbank, I detected a faint twinkling in the trees. The flashing grew more intense until it became a swirl of tiny rotating lights—fireflies! But these were like not like fireflies I’d ever seen: they flashed both on their own and also together. The sight was mesmerizing—like strings of dancing white Christmas lights. Looking up into the trees, it was hard to tell stars from fireflies.
As we watched this firefly dance, our boatman softly said, “Now put your hand in the water”…and we did. We expected merely to feel the river’s warmth compared to the now chilly night air. Instead, we were met with yet another treat—light was emitted and a bioluminescence was created by our fingers as they moved through the water.
Our boat moved slowly up river to an even larger swarm of fireflies. We marveled again at the sheer beauty and let our eyes go from the stars to the fireflies to the glowing water trailing our hands.
After a while, the boat turned around and we headed back toward the pier. It was an oddly melancholy trip back down the river. I had a sense that I was leaving something very special behind that I may not ever encounter again. A trifecta of nature’s sparkle left twinkling on the river.
Connection Between Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Mangrove Forests
The fireflies I saw that night congregate in huge colonies to feed in mangrove trees along the riverbanks. Mangroves are significant because they keep the rivers healthy and release important nutrients into the water. These nutrient-rich waters feed microscopic plankton—the source of the bioluminescence.
Out where the river meets the bay of Donsol, large masses of plankton can be found. Whale sharks gather in schools there to feed on the plankton.
Donsol attracts huge numbers of whale sharks compared to other places in the world. As a result, locals benefit from a booming ecotourism industry. WWF has helped with whale shark tourism since 1998. Programs have created jobs and provided a seasonal but steady source of income for the community.
In 2011, WWF spearheaded an effort to plant 10,000 mangrove seedlings. The mangroves will enhance and protect habitat shared by fireflies and whale sharks. By restoring mangrove forests, WWF keeps rivers healthy, ensures habitat for fireflies and food for whale sharks. In turn, fireflies and whale sharks attract tourists and generate important income for local communities.
Written by Catherine Plume, WWF’s Coral Triangle Director. Her boat ride was part of a firefly cruise, one of the successful ecotourism enterprises in the region.