1 Feb 2024
Discovery of Critical Habitat for the Shortfin Devil Ray, Mobula kuhlii, in Southern Africa
Manta rays, specifically reef manta rays (M. alfredi) and oceanic manta rays (M. birostris), remain largely understudied in South Africa, despite repeated sightings in various locations. Sightings of manta rays have been reported by divers, fishers, pilots, beach visitors, surfers, and spearfishers along the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) coast. Although most of these reports consist of infrequent or rare sightings, certain locations appear to be probable hotspots.
Preliminary research conducted over the past three years by the applicant has documented numerous manta ray sightings in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Aliwal Shoal, and Ballito, KZN. The presence of manta rays has been largely linked to surface feeding behaviour on zooplankton aggregations, indicating that South Africa plays a significant role in supporting this species. The proposed project, generously supported by the Rufford Foundation, aims to shed light on manta ray affinity to specific locations in South Africa, thereby advancing knowledge on local populations and the region as a whole.
Additionally, the inclusion of taking local students snorkeling will not only foster their passion for marine life but also equip them with the knowledge necessary to drive positive change along the coastline. By involving the next generation, the project aims to instill a sense of responsibility and encourage them to become advocates for marine conservation.
In summary, this research project supported by the Rufford Foundation holds the potential to provide crucial insights into manta ray behavior, habitat preferences, and the ecological significance of South Africa for these majestic creatures. Furthermore, it seeks to contribute to the development of management plans and inspire future generations to protect the marine environment.