MondoMaldive and Manta Trust
Help us supporting manta ray's research and conservation!
Read below to find out more
Mondomaldive is proud to announce its support to the Manta Trust, a charity organisation globally renowned as leader in the conservation and research of manta populations around the world, including the Maldives.
What is the Manta Trust?
The Manta Trust is a UK based charity that was founded in 2011 as an extension of the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP), a research initiative established in 2005 by British Marine Biologist Guy Stevens. Fascinated by the marine environment from a young age, Guy set his sights on the Maldives, which were to become his new home in 2003. It was here that Guy experienced his very first encounter with manta rays and he immediately fell in love with the majesty of these creatures. Driven by his own curiosity combined with the frequency and accessibility of manta ray sightings in the Maldives, Guy conceived the MMRP in the hope of increasing our understanding of their biology to most importantly learn how best to protect them. Today, the Manta Trust is recognized as a global leader in the conservation of mantas and governs several research projects in places all around the world including Fiji, Seychelles, Mexico, Hawaii, Philippines, and Indonesia - just to name a few.
What is the Manta Trust’s mission?
The Manta Trusts’ mission is to protect manta rays. Through robust science and research, raising awareness and providing education, influence and action, the Manta Trust strive to achieve this goal. Research is one of the core initiatives of the Manta Trust as it allows analysis of animal behavior and gives an understating of species’ biology. In combination, these provide the tools from which we can infer successful protection and conservation plans of action. Only after understanding currently unknown aspects of manta life history such as habitat use, migratory patterns and anthropogenic impacts will we be able to develop accurate and efficient conservations plans. However, research alone is not enough! The Manta Trust also provides awareness and education campaigns, workshops, international cooperation and more. Through the use of their website (www.mantatrust,org) the Manta Trust team are able to provide a wealth of information on mantas rays, current research and conservation projects and other important initiatives. Moreover, cutting edge research and additional achievements of the Manta Trust projects have been featured in a number of publicly available documentaries, articles and publications in widely known magazines and newspapers such as BBC, Natural World Special, Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
Why are manta rays threatened to extinction?
Unfortunately, in recent years we have observed a serious decline of the population of manta rays globally. Multiple factors are responsible for this trend but the largest concern it overfishing. The dry gill plates of the manta have become a highly sought after product in Chinese medicine as they are used to make a soup “miracle tonic” thought to treat a wide variety of conditions. These beliefs have led to an increase in the demand for manta gill plates thus increasing fishing pressure to an unsustainable rate in a number of countries that supply such products. Manta rays reach their sexual maturity very late (15 to 20 years old) and have an exceptionally low fecundity (only one pup every 2 to 3 years). These characteristics make them highly vulnerable as they reduce their ability to recover population size when numbers are depleted by overfishing. In countries like Indonesia, Mexico and Mozambique where mantas once thrived, populations have now become vulnerable to extinction.
How do we do research on Mantas?
Taking pictures! One of the most important tools for our research is identification, or “ID” photos for short. These are simple photos of the “belly” of the manta taken during encounters in the water. Every manta has a precise pattern of spots that enable us to identify each individual (Fig 1), much like a fingerprint. The unique spot pattern is located in the area between the two gill slits series’ on its underside. The in-water pictures are then analyzed and compared to those on our existing database which, in the Maldives, currently consists of almost 3000 mantas… wow! If a match is found in the database then the location is noted, if not, a new manta is added. Thanks to this simple tool we can build an understanding of where and when a certain manta was seen, if it has moved from where it was last sighted or if it stayed in the same area, etc. We are able to draw a sort of “map” of the manta rays location and understand very important elements of their life cycle and behavior.
Fig.1 In red, the area that allows the identification of the manta.
How can we help mantas?
1)By taking photos!
Rarely does one go on holiday without a camera and there is no better way to make your photos more meaningful than to send them to the Manta Trust! You will be more than satisfied knowing we will use them to help the research and protection of these beautiful creatures. If you have seen a manta anywhere in the world you can contribute directly to the global research. Send the photos to IDtheManta@mantatrust.org, or use our sightings upload form at http://www.mantatrust.org/make-a-difference/id-the-manta/sightings-upload-form/. Our experts will analyze them and within a couple of days give you feedback and information about the precise manta you have seen. Together with the pictures, don’t forget to let us know where (dive site, region, country) and when (day, time) you saw your manta. Whenever possible, you could also add some information about the sex (Fig. 2) or the presence of distinctive traits such as shark bites (Fig. 3) or injuries caused by boat propellers.
Fig.2 a) adult female b)adult male c) young male
Fig.3 Manta showing a shark bite on the right flipper
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to help us! A simple “click” is enough to catch the spots on the under side of the manta and help us with the identification. Even if you think that the pictures are not very good quality often they can still be useful in the research so please send them anyway! Always keep in mind that the less you move in the water the more likely the manta will come close to you, they are very inquisitive and curious.
2) Send us your archive’s pictures.
If you belong to the lucky group of people that have already seen mantas and you have pictures from previous years (’80, ’90, 2000), please send them to us as well. These pictures can in fact be extremely useful. Take Ping Pong for example; Ping Pong is one of the mantas we have encountered the most in the Maldives. The first picture we have of Ping Pong is dated 1989, when she was already mature, so about 15 to 20 years old. Since we still see Ping Pong today, we are able to estimate her age (probably 40 years) and this allows us to extrapolate that manta rays may live for even longer!
If you have photographs of a manta's belly or you'll have the chance to take one on your next holiday, remember how important those data could be...remember share them with the Manta Trust experts!
If you are interested in Manta Trust’s projects and how you can help us, visit our website www.mantatrust,org, or follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/MantaTrust or Twitter www.twitter.com/MantaTrust.
For enquires and more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org.