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February 11, 2012

Experts begin dissection of rare whale shark

Opinion

February 11, 2012

Karachi
A team of experts from the Pakistan Museum of Natural History in Islamabad, led by Dr Muhammad Rafique, has begun dissecting the large whale shark that was brought to the Karachi Fish Harbour by local fishermen a few days ago.
The team, which comprises of two taxidermists and a number of other experts, began the dissection on Friday, and are collecting samples for chemical analysis. The taxidermists are experts in preserving animal carcasses, and have been incorporated into the team to preserve the whale’s carcass in a life-like manner.
Director of the Natural History Museum Dr Muhammad Rafique, who is supervising the dissection, told the News that this whale shark is only the second such specimen to be brought to the Pakistani shore since November 11, 1947.
“It’s a very rare specimen of the world’s largest fish. Interestingly, it is a fish, and not a mammal, because it is a shark, not a whale. We will send these samples to labs, both within the country and abroad, for biopsy so that we can ascertain the cause of its death,” he explained.
“The second objective of the dissection of the 14.5 ton whale shark is to preserve its liver, heart and other internal organs for research purposes, as this is an extremely rare species which hasn’t been brought ashore for the last 60 years,” he added.
Dr Rafique said the team’s third objective was to reconstruct the fish in a lifelike manner and place it in the museum in Islamabad so that visitors could see the rare fish, which is, according to Dr Rafique, the largest species of fish on earth.
He said the initial preservation work would take place at the Karachi Fish Harbour, but that the carcass would have to be shifted to Islamabad to complete the reconstruction and preservation process.
“We have all the expertise and equipment in Islamabad to preserve a whale shark of such a large size, hence the job will only be complete after the carcass is shifted to Islamabad,”

he said.
He added that it was a female fish and that it was possible that they could get some dead offspring of the whale shark during dissection. Meanwhile, a team of foreign marine experts and documentary producers that had previously expressed interest in documenting the dissection and preservation process have reportedly backed out from documenting the procedure. The team, which works with the British production company ‘Windfall Films’, has, according to officials from the Karachi Fish Harbour Authority, cited security concerns as the reason for canceling their visit.

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