Experts and environmentalists heavily criticized two men seen surfing on a whale shark.
A three-minute online footage shows the two men standing on the whale shark tugged along by a rope attached to a moving boat. Laughter is heard in the background of the video.
Marine activists negatively reacted to the video, emphasizing the two men's "stupidity and arrogance." London-based wildlife group Marine Connection stumbled upon the video posted about a week ago by a person in Venezuela.
The group reposted the video on Facebook to be able to identify the two men and "bring them to justice."
"What a sad reflection on their attitude to wildlife when, instead of considering themselves fortunate to see this majestic creature in the wild, they choose to participate in a stupid stunt like this," said the group.
Marine Connection also stresses that whale sharks are protected and vulnerable according to the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of threatened species. "These guys should be charged."
People who have seen the online clip did not hesitate to show their disgust toward these two men.
"This is disgusting and these men need to be punished. It is absolutely unacceptable to treat an endangered species in such an ignorant way. We have to set the standard and make an example of these idiots and send the message this is not okay," commented Bridget C. Hall on Facebook.
Others underscored the rarity of the marine creature.
"I have been diving and searching for these fabulous animals. Unfortunately, I was never lucky enough to see them. These brainless [men] clearly don't know how lucky they are," posted another user Bart Goedendorp.
In a statement made to Florida's Bay News 9, Florida Aquarium associate curator Eric Hovland said he hopes that one day, sharks will be elevated to that same level of protection as marine mammals.
The video originally posted on Facebook by the person from Venezuela has now been deleted. Marine Connection reposted the clip in time, stressing that animal harassment is "no laughing matter."
Whale sharks live in tropical seas. They can extend to a length of more than 12 meters (approx. 40 feet). They are migratory, protected and classified as "vulnerable" to extinction.
Photo: Christian Jensen | Flickr