The Manta Trust is campaigning to establish a manta sanctuary in the lagoon of the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, the first identified manta ray nursery in the Maldives.
The British-based NGO is working with the Maldives government to officially designate the Maamunagau island’s lagoon and surrounding waters as the first Marine Protected Area in Raa Atoll.
“Since the lagoon is one of the few locations where scientists are certain that manta pups are born, protecting it is key to ensure the future of manta populations within the region,” Farah Hamdan, the Raa Atoll Project Manager for the Manta Trust, told National Geographic, noting that female mantas reach sexual maturity at 15 years of age and give birth to just one pup every four to five years.
“If we can create a sanctuary for them, the manta adults will come back each year to give birth, and the pups will have a safe space to grow big and strong, before they face the adult world outside the lagoon.”
For a few months every year, the lagoon sees an influx of pregnant mantas preparing to give birth, according to Hamdan. “By February of each year, we start to see several brand-new manta pups zooming around, and because the lagoon is protected from predators and has an abundance of plankton protein for the pups, they will spend a significant amount of time here, only leaving once they’re bigger and more courageous,” she explained.
Based at the resort’s Ocean Dive Centre, Manta Trust’s research in Maamunagau is part of the Maldivian Manta Ray Project, a comprehensive manta ray conservation study. In March every year, the resort hosts a five-day Manta Retreat, offering snorkelling and research trips as well as excursions and on-hand educational workshops.
Check out the National Geographic feature to learn more about the gentle giants and the efforts to protect the imperilled species.