April 19, 2024

Komodo National Park Is Home to Some of the Largest Manta Ray Aggregations in the World

” I was amazed by how receptive the local dive community was in helping collect much-needed data on these threatened animals,” said lead author Dr. Elitza Germanov. “With their support, we had the ability to recognize over 1,000 private manta rays from over 4,000 pictures.”
Manta on cleaning station. Credit: Simon Pierce, www.naturetripper.com
Individual manta rays are recognized by their often striking and unique stomach patterns. Dr. Andrea Marshall, primary researcher and co-founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation saw the prospective to engage the general public with data collection for these threatened and understudied marine animals and worked with software application company WildMe to develop an online wildlife database platform (MantaMatcher.org) to match and brochure manta rays in various populations worldwide.
” People love manta rays– they are among the most iconic animals in our oceans. The rise of the variety of individuals participating in SCUBA diving, snorkeling and the arrival of inexpensive undersea electronic cameras suggested that pictures and videos taken by the public throughout their holidays could be utilized to quickly and cost effectively scale information collection,” stated research study co-author Dr. Andrea Marshall.
Komodo National Park manta cleansing. Credit: Elitza Germanov
The photographs and accompanying time and place information is then used to construct sighting histories of private manta rays, which can then be evaluated with statistical motion models. These designs can forecast the likelihood that manta rays are traveling or living in between specific websites. The research studys results showed that some manta rays walked around the park and others as far as the Nusa Penida MPA, which lies more than 450 km (280 miles) to the west), however in general, manta rays revealed individual preferences for particular websites within the Park.
” I found it very intriguing how some manta rays appear to choose spending their time in some sites more than others, even when sites are 5 km (3 miles) apart, which are brief ranges for manta rays,” stated Dr. Elitza Germanov. “This implies that manta rays which prefer websites where fishing activities continue to occur or that are more popular with tourist will endure higher effects” she adds.
Komodo National Park birds-eye view. Credit: Simon Pierce, www.naturetripper.com
Fishing activities have actually been prohibited in lots of coastal areas within Komodo NP because 1984, consisting of at manta ray environments, providing some protection to manta rays that predates the 2014 across the country protection. Nevertheless, due to illegal fishing activity and manta ray motions into heavily fished waters manta rays continue to face a number of hazards from fisheries. About 5% of Komodos manta rays have long-term injuries that are likely the result of encounters with fishing gear.
The appeal of Komodo National Park for tourist grew throughout the research study, leading to a 34% increase in tourism boats visiting manta ray websites. An increase in boating activity and excessive divers and snorkeling activity can negatively affect on manta rays and their habitats. In 2019, the Komodo National Park Authority introduced limits on the number of boats and people that visit among the most well-known manta websites.
Komodo National Park manta cruising. Credit: Nick Longfellow
” This research study reveals that the locations where tourists frequently observe manta rays are important for the animals to feed, clean, and mate. This means that the Komodo National Park need to develop procedures to limit the disturbance at these sites,” stated Mr. Ande Kefi, a staff member of the Komodo National Park included with this research study. “I hope that this research study will encourage tourism operators to understand the need for the policies currently imposed and increase compliance,” he adds.
The authors of the research study make extra suggestions for improving manta ray preservation within the Komodo National Park, which can also function as guidelines for manta ray habitats elsewhere on the planet. Limiting the variety of tourism boats allowed at one time at all manta ray aggregation sites and making codes of conduct for diving and snorkeling with manta rays obligatory are proposed as ways to decrease the impact of tourism.
In spite of Indonesias history with extensive manta ray fisheries, Komodo National Park still retains big manta ray aggregations that with mindful ongoing management and risk reduction will benefit local manta ray populations. The research study highlights that marine protected areas that are big enough to host crucial manta ray habitats are an advantageous tool for manta ray preservation.
Reference: “Residency, movement patterns, behavior and demographics of reef manta rays in Komodo National Park” by Elitza S. Germanov, Simon J. Pierce, Andrea D. Marshall, I. Gede Hendrawan, Ande Kefi, Lars Bejder and Neil Loneragan, 16 May 2022, PeerJ.DOI: 10.7717/ peerj.13302.
The research was supported by the Australian Postgraduate Award & & Murdoch International Top Up (EG), Dive Operators Community of Komodo, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Foundation FortUna, Mantahari Oceancare, Fish-Are-Friends, SeaMorgens, Arenui, R. Horner and other personal donors.
The data for this 5-year long study was obtained from person researchers and skilled observers sending ID images to the worldwide manta ray database, www.mantamatcher.org. 1,085 reef manta rays were identified from 3,941 sightings that took place between 2013– 2018 based on their unique ventral coloration patterns.
Manta ray defense within Indonesia came mostly in reaction to the growth of the manta ray tourism industry. Indonesia is ranked 2nd worldwide for manta ray tourist, with an approximated worth of USD $15 million per year. The Komodo National Park includes an overall area of 1,733 km2 (669 miles2) with 603 km2 (233 miles2) being land.

In Komodo National Park, manta rays are present year-round, challenging the popular Komodo dragon as the most desired megafauna for visitors.
The research studys results revealed that some manta rays moved around the park and others as far as the Nusa Penida MPA, which lies more than 450 km (280 miles) to the west), but in general, manta rays revealed private preferences for specific sites within the Park.
Fishing activities have been forbidden in numerous coastal locations within Komodo NP considering that 1984, including at manta ray habitats, using some security to manta rays that precedes the 2014 nationwide security. Due to illegal fishing activity and manta ray motions into greatly fished waters manta rays continue to face a number of risks from fisheries. Manta ray protection within Indonesia came largely in response to the development of the manta ray tourist industry.

Alfredi on reef Komodo. Credit: Andrea Marshall
Scientists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation and Murdoch University, through a collective effort including the general public, are reporting a large number of manta rays in the waters of Komodo National Park, an Indonesian UNESCO World Heritage Site, suggesting the area may hold the secret to the local recovery of the vulnerable types.
Reef mantas (Mobula alfredi), which grow up to 5.5 meters (18 feet) broad, tend to feed and live in shallow, seaside environments. They likewise visit cleaning stations on reef to have parasites, or dead skin selected off by small fish. Courtship trains are also observed nearby to cleaning up stations. In Komodo National Park, manta rays are present year-round, challenging the famous Komodo dragon as the most sought-after megafauna for visitors.
Komodo National Park. Credit: Simon Pierce, www.naturetripper.com
Scientists teamed up with the dive operator community serving the Komodo National Park to source identification pictures of manta rays visiting the parks waters and submit them to MantaMatcher.org– a crowdsourced online database for manta and other rays. Many of the photographs originated from just four locations from over 20 commonly visited by tourism boats.