The last couple of weeks we have been trying to expand our manta horizons and spread the word about our project. Our aim was to find a couple of new ways to talk about the importance of conserving mantas and marine ecosystems and we already had some target audiences in mind. Before we came out here we hoped to be able to do two things: create a way to engage those holidaying in Bora Bora with manta conservation and also get some school groups involved in the project. If we could achieve both then we would have raised awareness of the important issues involved in conserving these amazing animals and their habitats with international visitors to French Polynesia as well as with the next generation of conservationists back home.
Part 1 was an easy win actually. We’re constantly taking photos of manta bellies when we’re diving and adding the sightings to our ever growing database. But it’s only us doing it and not many people know what we’re up to. So we’ve made some ‘Manta Watch’ boards and put them up in both the dive shops we work with here in Bora Bora. We update them with our sightings and with info on the mantas we see, such as: when they were first seen, their number (or name if they have one), approximate age and any other notes like scars, injuries, pregnancy etc. We’ve also added a bit about the project and a note to say that if anyone has any manta belly photos they can email them to us and we’ll add them to the database. They’ve gone down really well so far and we’re hoping to get some more photos to process from fellow divers soon.
Next up was to try and get some school kids involved. We were approached by two friends back in the UK who are primary school teachers, one in Bournemouth and one in Southampton. Their Key Stage 2 classes were studying the ocean and they wanted a new way to tell them about it and asked if we could help. This was just what we had been looking for! So we got some of our manta footage together and even made some stop motion animations about overfishing and coral reef damage and created a little video for them on marine conservation. It was a bit of a slog in the end; video editing on an unhappy laptop and uploading on medieval internet but we got there in the end. You can watch the video below.
Bex will be posting again soon on the topic of mantas in Polynesian culture so stop by to have a read of that! All for now though, thanks for reading.