The juvenile whale shark was ‘rescued’ on August 20th 2008 when she was found 'struggling in shallow water'. The hotel say that the shark was put in the aquarium for "medical care and observation" and that they would release her, but that release has been a very long time in coming.
In the intervening 19 months of captivity there has been a huge outcry from the public living in the region and from outside with a “Free Sammy” campaign on FaceBook and numerous articles written about the situation in local newspapers and featured on this blog.
It was somewhat ironic that the first Arabian Whale Shark Research Programme conference was held in Dubai in December last year, but Sammy still languished in captivity.
While Sammy’s ‘rescue’ and ‘recuperation’ at Atlantis was marked with great publicity and encouraged a constant stream of visitors to the hotel, her release was done with a significant lack of publicity, in an almost clandestine manner. None of the media or environmental community had been notified or were on hand to see the shark released and no pictures of her release have been published.
Sammy photographed in December 2009 with her pack of Cobais in constant attendance, and in close up her damaged and deteriorating lower caudal fin
Steve Kaiser, curator of the Atlantis exhibit told local media that Atlantis were pleased to be a part of research into this species and that Sammy would be tracked through a tagging programme to provide further information for the research community.
So let us hope that this is at last a happy ending to the story of Sammy the whale shark, and that she was not released due the catastrophic publicity her death in the tank at Atlantis would have caused. We look forward to seeing Atlantis publicise her location and movements over the coming months….