Manta Rays' Identification program

 

This program began in August 2002 on Moeava de Rosemont's initiative - diver cameraman - which quickly realized the interest and the fragility of Anau's dive site.

At first, he wished to know more about this fascinating animal, thus he began an identification program of the rays to estimate their population.

 

August 2002 : beginning of the program

The first year, 53 individuals are identified (24 Females and 29 Males)

 

 

In 2003, the population rises to 61 identified manta rays (32 Females and 29 Male)

 

 

In 2004, we reach 76 manta rays (39 Females and 37 Male) and the observations allowed identifying a resident population (all year long) and a migratory population (or rather of passage).

The same year, the MPRP association is created with the aim of drawing the public authorities' attention on the interest and the urgent necessity of creating a Marine Protected Area (MPA) allowing the access to the site under certain conditions (adapted schedules, limited numbers of observers, precautions of approaches)

 

 

This year is very important because it marks the rough stop of the observations in June, only because the mantas have suddenly left Anau.

 

 

 
 

With hindsight, we realized that the resident population was still present inside Borabora's lagoon but had chosen other more quiet sites to clean themselves.

Even if no serious study was led about that event, the reasons seem to be more and more evident. Indeed, between 2002 and 2008, Borabora which is in fact a quite small island, knew numerous hotel constructions' projects. We are before the 2008 financial crisis, the tourism industry is growing and the manta ray which was previously known by divers only, knows an increasing craze. Therefore, in a few years, activities providers' boats multiply and Anau's site, which is very small too, is invaded by visitors (divers, snorkelers, jet-skis).

Another factor is to be considered for the event of June 2005: the construction in Borabora of the two biggest and most luxurious hotels with immediate proximity of Anau's manta site. The first one (St Régis) has recently opened, and the second one (Four Seasons) is going full swing with many disturbing nuisances engendered underwater.

 

After June 2005, manta rays will however be observed (in limited quantities) inside the island's lagoon (Toopua and the Pass).

It is only in 2007 (June till September) that mantas will return to Anau. The observations are less frequent and the number of sighted mantas is lower. However, we shall assist a few pre-mating dances between male and females.

 

 

The return was short-term, because the construction of the Four Seasons began the second part of its construction project (staff lodging), located a few hundred meters away from the manta site (see satellite picture below). As excavators "attack" the hill, we could hear the percussions underwater while scuba diving at Anau's dive site. From the next day, manta rays were not any more on the site.

 

 
 

We had to wait for 2009 before Manta rays come back to Anau.

Fortunately (for mantas only) the International financial crisis has come.

Borabora has been heavily affected by this crisis which stopped the tourism development after fervent years.

The direct consequences are the followings: much fewer boats and nuisances (the hotels' constructions have ended) and mantas finally came back again at Anau's site.

 

With our latest observations (beginning of 2010) we have sighted 3 newly born manta rays.

Since June 2005, even if there was no real follow-up, we were able to identify 15 newly mantas besides the 87 already identified.

 

 

It is thus a total of 102 Mantas that were identified since August 2002.

 

 

The real question is about the current state of the resident population. We were able to re-sight some familiar mantas (such as Ziggy, a charming female we follow since 2002) but many of the others miss.

 

 

In conclusion, we regret the lack of public authorities' support for a cause which would support the tourism activity while protecting Borabora's lagoon biodiversity.

The previous years' events demonstrate the fragility of mantas rays' habitat inside a lagoon when facing frequent and repeated nuisances.

 

Fortunately, it is not too late because mantas are sighted again at Anau. The MPA creation for this site is more than ever a priority as well as the classification of manta rays in protected species.

 

 

 

 


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