Concern over aquarium's captive Whale shark

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Concerned environmentalists are campaigning for the release of a Whale shark from an aquarium in Dubai.

The female shark was caught and placed in the aquarium for medical care and observation last month after it was found disorientated in shallow waters.

However, environmental groups feel the time has now come for the Whale shark to be tagged and released " claiming that the aquarium does not have the appropriate CITES permission to keep it in captivity long-term.

The juvenile shark was reported to be fatigued and disorientated in shallow waters on the Arabian Gulf in September when, due concerns over rising sea temperatures and salinity, a decision was made to capture it.

The 4 metre (13 ft) long Whale shark, Rhincodon typus, was subsequently transported to the local aquarium and placed into an 11 million litre display tank where it could be monitored for 24 hours a day.

But, a month later, the shark has remained on display.

The Whale shark is there for medical care and observation and will be released, the Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF) told Dubai-based newspaper Gulf News in a statement.

The statement did however add that they do recommend the aquarium consider their rationale for keeping the creature longer than necessary, and release it back into its natural habitat without delay.

Whale sharks are listed as ~vulnerable on the IUCN red list, and are protected by the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, USA, has previously had trouble keeping Whale sharks in captivity. In 2007, two of the aquariums six sharks died within five months of each other.

Mohammad Abdul Rahman Hassan, head of the marine environment and sanctuaries unit at Dubai Municipality, told Gulf News that they are investigating the situation, the facts are not clear.