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The whale shark feeders of the Philippines

Whale sharks are lured to the Tan-awan coastline of the Philippines by fishermen who hand feed them small shrimp, drawing divers and snorkelers to see the highly sought-after animals, known as gentle giants of the sea

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A sign advertising whale shark watching is pictured as a tricycle passes by in the village of Tan-awan, Oslob, in the southern Philippines island of Cebu February 27, 2013. Tan-awan used to be a sleepy village that never saw tourists unless they were lost or in transit. Yet now they flock there by the hundreds - to swim with whale sharks, the world's largest fish. Whale sharks are lured to the Tan-awan coastline of the Oslob district by fishermen who hand feed them small shrimp, drawing divers and snorkelers to see the highly sought-after animals, known as gentle giants of the sea. But the practice has sparked fierce debate on the internet and among biologists, who decry it as unnatural.

David Loh/Reuters

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Fisherman Roy Lagahid, 16, pushes away a juvenile whale shark looking for food as he sits on a paddleboat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A juvenile whale shark approaches a feeder on a paddleboat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A juvenile whale shark approaches a feeder on a paddleboat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A whale shark approaches a feeder boat off the beach of Tan-awan, Oslob.

David Loh/Reuters

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A whale shark feeds next to a feeder boat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A whale shark approaches a feeder boat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A whale shark hits a snorkeler with its tail after he swam too close to it off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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Whale sharks looking for food approach paddleboats off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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Snorkelers swim next to a whale shark as it approaches a feeder boat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A scuba diver swims near a whale shark as it approaches a paddleboat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A snorkeler swims next to a whale shark as it is fed from a feeder boat off the beach of Tan-awan.

David Loh/Reuters

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A scuba diver swims next to a whale shark as it is fed from a feeder boat off the beach of Tan-awan, Oslob, in the southern Philippines island of Cebu March 1, 2013.

David Loh/Reuters

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