Ahmedabad: A 40 ft whale shark in the middle of a basket ball court at St. Xavier’s Loyola Hall, Ahmedabad drew young and old alike and caught the imagination of visitors, who had a field day out at Bal Vividha. The model was displayed by the Wildlife Trust of India as part of their campaign to save the whale shark and accord it a place of pride in Gujarat.
Vhali the whale shark stood tall touching the ring of the basket catching the delightful eyes of the onlookers at a three-day festival to introduce school children to a multi-faceted approach to education as a joyful learning experience.
The three-day festival in Ahmedabad from 12 th to 14 th Feb 2005 was organized by the Comet Media Foundation, Mumbai and was supported by Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Gujarat Education Society.
The Mayor of Ahmedabad Ms. Aneesa Begum Mirza declared the festival open in the presence of the Chief Guest Mr. Ajay Kumar Tomar, Dy. Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad. The aim behind the display of the whale shark model here was to highlight wildlife concerns in India by creating an atmosphere of debate and discussion among the school children and at the same time generating public opinion on the imminent danger to the whale shark, which is found migrating to the coast of Gujarat in large numbers.
The life-sized model of the whale shark symbolizing the ‘Pride of Gujarat’ was the centre of attraction during the three-day festivities. Amidst a variety of programs, such as puppet shows, street plays, story-telling secessions, besides exhibitions and sale of children’s literature, educational toys and learning aids, nothing was more captivating for the children, than the display of the huge whale shark.
Young toddlers were anxious to find their way to the basket ball court to get their real life experience of the gigantic fish. Five-year-old Sahil was emphatic that there was an entrance into the whale shark and the volunteers were not letting him in, a spill over from his past experience at a crawl-in planetarium!
The interactive secessions were intelligently devised by educationists, NGO volunteers working in the field of wildlife and other eminent members from the society. The amount of curiosity generated among the local public at the function was very encouraging.
“Visitors could not believe that a fish of this size could be harmless to humans,” reported Ashvin Patel and Navin Patel, students from Gujarat Vidyapith who volunteered at the program.
“When I tried to direct two parents with their children to a puppet show that was about to begin, the children walked away to the whale shark model, saying that they had come specifically to see the world’s biggest fish,” reported Dilip, a volunteer from the Centre for Environmental Education.
This program was in continuation of a series of events launched by the Wildlife Trust of India in Gujarat as part of its “Pride of Gujarat” campaign. Street plays on the subject were earlier performed all along the coast of Gujarat among the fishing communities and school children, to educate them on the importance of conservation. The campaign to save the whale shark is actively supported in Gujarat by Tata Chemicals Limited and Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Limited.
“Each of the 4000 visitors at Bal Vividha touched the whale shark and carried home information on the world’s biggest fish, with a message of conservation and the need to protect her as a valued guest to the shores of their homeland”, enthused Dhiresh Joshi, the campaign manager in Gujarat .
The campaign that was earlier conducted on the coast will now move to the mainland, hoping that Vhali the whale shark finds her way into the hearts of the Gujarat populace and ultimately be placed as a “Pride of Gujarat”.
Picture credits: Khalid, Studio Pixel