Hi guys, 

As many of you know, I along with some of our LAMAVE team and a couple of international scientists are heading to Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site, to assess the shark & ray biodiversity of the Park.  

One of our main goals is to understand the movement and residency patterns of some of the shark species that visit the park. We will be working closely with the Park’s management office (Tubbataha Management Office) with the aim of doing the following:

- Satellite tagging whale sharks & tiger sharks

- Deploying Remote Underwater Videocameras (RUVs)

- Conducting Aerial Surveys using Quadcopters

- Genetic studies

We’ve had a researcher based at the Tubbataha Ranger’s station since early March, already collecting RUV footage from around the atolls. He has confirmed the presence of: Tiger sharks, Scalloped hammerheads, White, blacktip reef sharks, Grey reef sharks, Mobula sp. rays, Whale sharks, Leopard & bamboo sharks

We have one space available for an adventurer with a passion for our oceans. We’ll be embarking on a research liveaboard vessel from the Philippines on the 14th of May, and will be at sea for 10 nights.  The prices of the expedition is $3,000 (USD). All proceeds go to the full realisation of the expedition.

If this sounds like you, or you know somebody that might be interested in this unique opportunity, please contact us at

Thanks as always, 




A stranded Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata) with a Cookiecutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis) bite. 

This was a dolphin that stranded in a nearby village a couple of weeks ago. The local government stranding response was really good and in a couple of hours the dead dolphin caught a ride up a steep hill from the beach to the main road from a bunch of strong and ingenious men who fashioned a “stretcher” out of wood and rope lying around. 

Popped on the truck, it made it’s way home. To my home, which is fast becoming the dolphin grave yard. Though my living here, and it’s use as a dolphin burial ground are unrelated, it makes for easy work! We performed a necropsy on this super skinny male and found it’s stomach completely devoid of contents. No sign of plastic or fishing hooks though - so it probably had a disease that stopped it from eating. 

What did not kill it is the seemingly traumatic bite from it’s side. The massive hole went all the way down to the muscle layer and is the calling card of one of the weird monsters of the deep - the Cookiecutter shark! 

Also known as the cigar shark, this charmer grabs large cylindrical chunks of flesh out of large marine animals. How you might ask?

It sucks onto the body surface of the prey and retracts its tongue to create negative pressure with suction lips to ensure a tight seal. Then, the bite, anchored by narrow upper teeth and sliced by the menacing lower teeth. And to top it off, some acrobatics, as the shark twists and rotates the body to make a circular cut, and we’re done. 

The bites don’t kill the “prey” which can include cetaceans, sharks, sting rays, dugongs, bony fish and the occasional human….!

Cookie Cutter Shark | Credit

Happy World Wildlife Day! Here’s what Steve De Neef from Steve De Neef Photography has to say about it: 

“Today is World Wildlife Day, a perfect time to reflect on all the beauty around us and thank the people fighting for our planet every day. Here, volunteers of the Large Marine Vertebrate Project, Philippines tend to a hawksbill turtle that swallowed a fishhook. The turtle survived and is back in the ocean now.”

So, to show your appreciation for all wonders of life on our planet, remember to hug a turtle for World Wildlife Day! (Except don’t because it’s illegal. Just pick up your plastic instead and maybe the turtles will hug you.)


Some relaxing whale shark footage from photographer/videographer Steve De Neef, mainly filmed from his visit last week to our LAMAVE base here in Southern Leyte, Philippines. All footage shot with a Canon 5D markIII, 16-35mm f2.8 lens using only natural light and one breath of air :)

Great Job Steve!

And yes these are just some of the creatures I find myself working with everyday ;-) 




LAMAVE is looking for two volunteers to join their Southern Leyte Whale Shark Project in 2015. They are looking for enthusiastic, hard-working individuals with a passion for conservation. The ideal candidate will meet the following requirements:

• Available to stay a minimum of 3 months
• Excellent swimming/snorkelling skills.
• Ability to free dive at least 7m.
• Physically fit enough to spend several hours a day on a boat and/or in the water, frequently in rough conditions and current. 
• Strongly interested in whale sharks, conservation and environmental research.
• Ability to work independently and in a team.
• Strong work ethic with a willingness to work long hours if necessary.
• Comfortable with living in a shared house with only basic amenities.
• Experience in developing countries.
• Proficiency in English.

There are two starting dates: 25th Jan 2015, and Apr 15th 2015.
A more detailed volunteer pack will be forwarded to interested applicants following receipt of your CV, Cover Letter and intended start date as above to

The awesome guys over at LAMAVE are looking for good swimmers to volunteer for their whale shark project in S. Leyte, Philippines. Fancy a few months in a remote Filipino village working with wild whale sharks and a really friendly local community? Apply now!


It had been a year since I first set foot in Oslob, Cebu to volunteer for LaMaVe as a whale shark researcher. That evening, I went out of the project house and was greeted by a night sky clear enough to see the milky way and a couple of meteors, which I took as a sign that I made a good decision. But it didn’t prepare me for the BEST: every day is a joy when you’re swimming with whale sharks, bonding with your co-volunteers and favorite Doc, and even learning how to cook. It was a month of being exactly where I wanted to be.


GUYS WE (LAMAVE) are super excited to announce our indiegogo campaign to crowdfund an incredibly important shark expedition here in the Philippines.


“LAMAVE are delighted to announce the launch of our first-ever indiegogo campaign: “Expedition Shark: Discover and Protect Shark Eden”

Check it out and join us in an unprecedented expedition to assess one of the last shark Edens: Tubbataha ‪#‎sharkeden‬

Be a part of it, support our campaign and lets make history. We need you, the sharks need you. Share, donate and be part of the solution to help us save the sharks of the coral triangle.

Together we can do it.

#sharkeden ‪#‎lamave‬ ‪#‎oceanoptimism‬ “


I mentioned something about LAMAVE t-shirt designs in one of my last posts …well here is one of the designs…we’re printing both stickers and t-shirts, which we are hoping to sell both to help fundraise for our projects out here in the Philippines :-).  

Ale, Steve and Sam will have some with them during ADEX (Asian Dive expose…) happening later this week in Singapore but if you’re interested in getting your hands on one…check out the merchandise page on our website….and stay tuned for more designs to come ;-)

Just think, you could help sharks, support conservation and spread the love….all in one purchase :-) 


Just the other day I danced with my first manta ray ;-)….and fell in love <3 as it twirled around us….so mesmerised was I that I didn't even notice when it tried to eat me?…or maybe kiss me? ;-) ….something that was only revealed when we looked at Jess’ pictures ;p

A beautiful encounter, with an animal that desperately needs protecting.  Though protected under Philippine law these animals are still fished - with their gill rakers and fins often being sold to accommodate the Asian market.  Swimming with such an amazing creature, only highlights how much more valuable these creatures are alive than dead, a message we all need to help share

Population structure and residency patterns of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, at a provisioning site in Cebu, Philippines

Our first Large Marine Vertebrate Project, Philippines (LAMAVE) whale shark paper is out. Follow the link above to check it out.  The study looked at the population structure and residency patterns of R. typus (whale shark) at the Oslob provisioning site, in Cebu, Philippines.

Big shout out to lead author Gonzalo Araujo and a massive thank you to our team and all our amazing LAMAVE volunteers.  Go team!

This study represents the first description of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, occurring at a provisioning site in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines. Frequent observations of sharks are often difficult, even at tourism sites, giving rise to provisioning activities to attract them. The present study provides repeated longitudinal data at a site where daily provisioning activities took place, and whale sharks were present every day. A total of 158 individual whale sharks were photographically identified between Mar 2012 and Dec 2013, with 129 males (82%), 19 females (12%) and 10 (6%) of undetermined sex. Mean estimated total length was 5.5 m (±1.3 m S.D.). Twenty individuals were measured with laser photogrammetry to validate researchers’ estimated sizes, yielding a good correlation (r2 = 0.83). Fifty-four (34%) individuals were observed being hand-fed by local fishermen (provisioned), through in-water behavioural observations. Maximum likelihood methods were used to model mean residency time of 44.9 days (±20.6 days S.E.) for provisioned R. typus contrasting with 22.4 days (±8.9 days S.E.) for non-provisioned individuals. Propeller scars were observed in 47% of the animals. A mean of 12.7 (±4.3 S.D.) R. typus were present in the survey area daily, with a maximum of 26 individuals (Aug 10 2013) and a minimum of 2 (Dec 6 2012). Twelve (8%) individuals were seen on at least 50% of survey days (n = 621), with a maximum residency of 572 days for one individual (P-396). Twenty four individuals were photographically identified across regional hotsposts, highlighting the species’ migratory nature and distribution. Extended residency and differences in lagged identification rates suggest behavioural modification on provisioned individuals, underlying the necessity for proper management of this tourism activity.

Did you know that whale sharks can grow to up to 20 metres long and are believed to live up to 100 years old?

The largest whale shark (caught off of Taiwan) was measured at 20 meters in length, while the smallest (found free-swimming in Donsol, Philippines) measured only 46 cm long. However, sizes at birth can vary. A whale shark caught by fishermen in India still had a yolk sack attached and measured 94 cm, while researchers recorded a shark measuring only 61 cm without a yolk sac inside a pregnant whale shark in Taiwan.

Marissa Fox and the Large Marine Vertebrates Project need your help to find and protect critical whale shark habitats. Share the video in the link below and ask your friends to do the same. Your vote will make a difference!

Whale shark reflection

Whale sharks are filter feeders, the collect plankton by passing water over their gill rakers on the way past their gills. In a small fishing village in the Philippines, the whale sharks are fed for tourists. This practice has only been going on a year, and the long term effects are something the project I’m working for (Large Marine Vertebrates Project) is studying. 

I have had the craziest 10 days...

…hence no Tumblr. 

I necropsied a pan-tropical spotted dolphin.

I went to a provincial government meeting.

I got interviewed for two newspapers.

I monitored a severe propellor cut on a whale shark.

I lost my shark biopsy cherry.

I became a shark biopsy slut. 

It was awesome. Apart from the prop cut. That sucks.