Whale Shark Beaches In Ecuador Prompting Six-Hour Rescue Attempt

Dustin Wicksell

A nine-meter-long whale shark washed ashore on the coast of Ecuador earlier this week, prompting a massive rescue effort that involved over 100 volunteers who struggled to save the life of one of the ocean's largest fish.

The whale shark was spotted by a fisherman early Monday morning, according to the ABC News. The animal, a large female shark, had become stranded on a beach at the small town of Santa Marianita as a retreating tide left it in dangerously shallow water. Dozens of volunteers were mobilized to aid the stranded whale shark as tourists, police, and local fishermen joined together to move it back into the sea using ropes.

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"The volunteers did their best to keep the animal breathing by flushing water in its mouth and over its five pairs of gills in addition to protecting it from the scorching sun with shirts and kites from the local kite-boarding school."

Though Layman asserts that such a stranding is far from a common occurrence, whale sharks are known to inhabit local coastal waters. Their numbers are few, however, and she maintains that she has never heard of another whale shark stranding in that region of Ecuador.

[Image: Tanya Layman via the ABC]