Secret lives of Sri Lanka’s giants
By Jithendri Gomes
On 18 July 2019, the Jasmine Hall of BMICH was full beyond its capacity. Many individuals gathered to learn about the secret lives of the giants in our seas from Dr Asha de Vos. She kept the entire audience hooked on to every valuable piece of information she shared about these fascinating species. But it was easy to pick the message that she wanted to deliver – leave the whales alone.
She explained this beautifully with an anecdote, saying: “What if you were eating an ice cream and enjoying a walk along the road, and suddenly, everyone around you starts coming closer and closer and invades your private space. Will you feel as free and happy as you were before or will you want to run away and hide?
It is the same with the whales; when you take a boat down to see them, and it’s you and multiple other boats surrounding them, they feel threatened. And they most certainly don’t like it.” Explaining that whales prefer to be appreciated from afar, she continued to affirm that the more you stay away from them and observe, the more you will see, learn, and enjoy.
When asked about the responsibility of the tourism industry with relevance to this cause, Dr. de Vos explained that it is not wrong to go and see them. Accordingly, the boats and companies that encourage whale watching need to be more responsible, and the practise altogether needs to be regulated, especially by limiting the number of boats that go out to sea every day.
Another important fact she mentioned was that whales litter only once in five years and they only have one baby. The mother whale puts all her efforts into nurturing and taking care of the young one. The problem is if they die more than they reproduce, and in our waters, it is very rare that a killer whale would attack other whales, as there is plenty of food around. So it is our actions that really contribute to it. Even if our actions may not be the main cause of their deaths, they certainly negatively impact on their existence.
The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) will continue their fantastic monthly series of lectures, and we will bring forth a summary on our environment column.
Photos Krishan Kariyawasam