Conservationists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Exeter, and the Government of Mexico recently teamed up to study the migrations of Manta Rays using satellite telemetry. The studied revealed never before known secrets of these beautiful creatures. The study was published in the online journal Plos One.
Though these creatures can grow up to 25 ft and eerily resemble an underwater bat, they are completely harmless to humans. It is feared that these wonderful creatures are becoming endangered and have already been listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This particular study’s results were a little unsettling because it showed previously unknown data about the migration of this creature.
Scientists spent a few days off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula tagging the rays with satellite transmitters. The results were astonishing. The rays traveled 1100 Kilometers (over 600 miles) and stayed mostly within the territory of Mexico. Like whales, these rays swim with their mouths open so they can feed on plankton. The unsettling part of this study however, is that only 11% of the areas they swam were considered protected. In fact, they often swam in major shipping routes in the region. This means there is a strong chance they might come in contact with a ship and incur injury.
“Studies such as this one are critical in developing effective management of manta rays, which appear to be declining worldwide,” said Dr Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giant Program. Hopefully this will provide much needed information about how we can protect these beautiful creatures and maybe educate the public about their migration patterns. Other dangers lurk for the manta rays. They are often cut up for shark bait and used for medicinal purposes. Education is key to protecting the manta rays. As more is learned about them and shared with the public at large, hopefully more can be done to protect their habitat and ensure their future.