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The whale shark has a flattened head featuring a blunt snout above its mouth with short barbels protruding from its nostrils

Threatened: Although whale sharks are listed as vulnerable species, they continue to be hunted for their fins in parts of Asia

Star power: Billionaire Richard Branson has joined the non-profit group WildAid to swim with 300 whale sharks to promote shark tourism

Open-mouthed: The 35-tonne giants make sure they break the surface at exactly the same time to ensure they snare as many fish as possible before they can escape the bubble net

WildAid says the lifetime economic value of a single whale shark can exceed 2 million, compared to a few hundred dollars to kill the same fish :: www.seethewild.org

Keeping their trap shut: The whales close their mouths as they sink beneath the surface with lunch well on the way to their stomachs

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