It was an exciting November at the Save Our Seas Foundation’s D’Arros Research Centre (DRC): we identified thirteen new manta rays around the island for the Seychelles Manta Ray Project! Each day, the DRC and Manta Trust team would circumnavigate the waters of D’Arros Island on the lookout for these charismatic and gentle giants and every time a manta was sighted we would quickly don our dive gear and get our cameras ready in the hope of photographing it.
Regardless of the species, a crucial part of investigating the size of a population is ensuring that all individuals can be accurately identified across the entire duration of the study. For manta rays this can be done by looking at the array of spots on the animal’s belly, as the spot pattern is present from birth, does not change over time and is unique to each ray. As we collect photographs of each manta ray and its spots, we are able to generate ID images for every individual that we encounter and from them we can count how many manta rays have been sighted around D’Arros Island.
In addition to conducting surveys at D’Arros Island, the DRC and Manta Trust team is building a Seychelles-wide database of manta rays by analysing photographs that are taken and sent in by generous collaborators across the country. Not only will this work greatly increase the current understanding of the size of the Seychelles’ manta ray population as a whole, but it will also reveal the movement and residency patterns of these incredible elasmobranchs throughout the islands of the Seychelles, collectively generating knowledge that will be of vital importance to ensuring the protection of these animals long into the future.
As the sun sets on another beautiful evening at D’Arros Island, the team now eagerly awaits tomorrow’s manta survey and the possibility of recording more manta ray sightings – every photograph counts!
Do you have any photos of manta rays?
If you have seen or photographed a manta in the Seychelles – or anywhere else in the world – you can contribute directly to the research and conservation of manta rays by submitting your images and sighting encounters through the Manta Trust’s online submission form. Alternatively, you can e-mail your images to IDtheManta@mantatrust.org – but please don’t forget to let us know when and where you saw your manta/s. The more information you provide, the more information we can give you about your encounter. We reply to each submission with details of the history of the manta ray you encountered – and if you happen to photograph a manta ray that has not been previously recorded, you can also choose its name!
Your help is greatly appreciated, so please take a few minutes to send us your manta images and/or sighting details and be proud of your role as a citizen scientist!