Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mangrol adopts whale shark as mascot

Mangrol adopts whale shark as mascot
Times of India

Mangrol, a small fishing town situated along Gujarat coast, now has whale shark as its mascot. The announcement was made during the Whale Shark Day celebrations on Tuesday, marking the culmination of six years of successful Save The Whale Shark campaign.  

Mangrol is the seventh town in Gujarat to have adopted whale shark as a city mascot. Earlier, Porbandar, Diu, Okha, Ahmedabad, Veraval and Dwarka had adopted the whale shark as their official mascot.

The whale shark campaign, launched in January 2004, is an initiative of Gujarat forest department and Wildlife Trust of India-International Fund for Animal Welfare (WTI-IFAW). The campaign is supported by Tata Chemicals Limited.

The species was previously hunted in hundreds in Gujarat for their liver oil which is used to water-proof boats, and the by-products including meat and fins were exported. The whale shark is now safe on the shores of Gujarat because of the fishing community, the Indian Coast Guard, the local people and popular spiritual leader Morari Bapu.

"Since the launch of the campaign, over 240 whale sharks accidentally caught in the fishing nets were freed by the people," said Anita Karn, DCF, Junagadh.

The Whale Shark Day celebrations kicked off with a rally by hundreds of children. A 40-feet long inflatable whale shark was taken from Parmeshwar Vidyalaya to the venue of the event at Mangrol. The event was chaired by chief conservator of forests S K Chaturvedi and was attended by MLA Rajgi Jatwa among others.

Chaturvedi said, "The city of Mangrol has been closely associated with whale shark conservation for the last four years. The fisher folk have carried out many rescues. It is a matter of great pride that they are now taking their dedication to the next level by officially adopting the Vhali."

On March 12, 2005, the postal department of Gujarat came out with a special whale shark postal cover and TCL awarded the BNHS Green Governance award on November 10, 2005, for the whale shark campaign.

Rajbir Singh Saini, head administration, TCL, said, "Over the years, the Whale Shark Conservation Project has grown in leaps and bounds. TCL is committed to saving the flora and fauna."

The campaign`s overwhelming success lay in its multiple strategic approach which connected human emotions to socio-cultural beliefs. Morari Bapu established a comparison of the whale shark to a daughter returning home to give birth. This message was spread across the coastal towns through street plays and awareness campaigns and proved instrumental in the success of the project.

"There is no other species in India that has a `day` dedicated to it, and no other species, let alone a fish, has been adopted by so many cities as their mascot," said Rahul Kaul, senior director at WTI. "The campaign has covered one aspect of whale shark conservation in India. Now, the focus will be on generating scientific information on the species for its conservation," he added. The forest department, WTI-IFAW and TCL are currently undertaking scientific studies on whale sharks.

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