A massive whale shark that was recently spotted swimming near one of China’s offshore oilfields has been slaughtered and hung in a harbor.
Pictures of the majestic sea creature tranquilly swimming in waters near southern Guangxi were shared on the official Weibo account for the Beihai city government on May 5.
Two days after those pictures were posted, a new set of photos surfaced on the Chinese net showing the gentle giant slaughtered and hanging by ropes in a harbor.
The viral images sparked outrage from Chinese netizens who criticized those responsible for the killing of the shark, which are a second-class nationally protected animal in China. Regulations dictate that they must be set free if caught by fishermen. It is illegal to purchase or sell whale sharks in the country.
Whale sharks are filter feeders that have a diet consisting mainly of plankton. They are known to grow up to 40 feet or more and live as long as 70 to 100 years old. Though they are massive in size, whale sharks are docile and sometimes allow swimmers to hitch a ride on them.
They are harmless to humans and have been listed as a vulnerable species, which means there is a high likelihood that they will become endangered unless their reproduction rates improve or threats to their survival are eliminated.
Whale sharks are known to be used as a tourist attraction and hunted in Asia and the Philippines. The creatures prefer warm waters and are found in tropical seas. They migrate to the central west coast of Australia every spring.