For the first time scientists are
employed in the Sudanese seas for a research project and conservation.
We are talking about manta rays, the Mesharifa lagoons, the large Dungonab bay: news and discoveries and projects of these last few months 2012-2013.
Manta rays, from the Spanish “mantilla”, cape, mantle, a name that perfectly outlines these fascinating marine animals that seem to fly in solitary and sky blue altitudes or dancing as elegant mantillas lifted by invisible ballerinas. Impossible not to get astonished and remember as unforgettable a swim with mask and flippers together with the “giant manta rays”. Between September and November, at the end of May and June, in the lagoons of Mesharifa, in Sudan, it has been such a recurring date to be able to promise it in the cruise itineraries.
In these months some marine biologists of the Cousteau team came back to work in the Sudanese seas in collaboration with “the Sudanese Wildlife Administration and the Ministry for the Environment, Tourism and Wildlife”. They have started up a new project: “Conservation and management of Sharks and Manta Rays in the Sudan”. Over the next 4 years they will collect data on the movement and habits of manta rays and sharks, in order to develop a conservation plan of the species and the definition of protected areas.
|sounders tag positioned|
The data recorded during the next few years, periodically analysed, will give information about the transfers and the visited areas, as well as proofs of inhabitancy and/or migration.
Fascination of these marine kites is increased by the mystery still surrounding “our Mesharifa manta rays”: we don’t know much about their habits, the details of their migrations. We do know that the colour of the back and the spots on the belly of each manta ray are unique, almost an ID card, that’s why, through pictures, they are well recognisable. We know that they reach sexual maturity at 5 years old, that the gestation lasts about one year, the unborn, single, rarely two of them, already at birth has a wingspan of 1,5 metres and 11 Kg. weight, measures redoubling quickly only in one year….
Today, 24th of February, during a meeting with Nigel and Steven at P.Sudan, we are informed about very exciting facts. It seems as if the manta rays have found in Mesharifa, in the bay of Dungonab, an ideal situation for their life and development. It seems they are both present at the same time: the Rongirostris and the Alfredi. The presence of both of these types is in itself extraordinary. DNA samples have been collected and they will be compared with the ones selected by other scientists present now in South Africa. It even seems that the Rongirostris and the Alfredi have coupled with each other, as far as it seems due to an analysis of colouring and coats. In this case we need to ask what habits these hybrids will have: migratory or settled down? Is it possible that the Rongirostris gave up migrating? The records collected up to now are not enough to confirm these hypothesises or to answer our questions, nor to determine the migrations, the distances covered and the eventual areas reached, but certainly a new fascinating page opens up for this Sudanese marine paradise. It’s a real excitement to find out that there is still something to discover in a world getting increasingly smaller and above all with lots of species in danger.
The fact that these studies are attracting the international attention makes us to hope in a future of secure protection for these creatures. It’s a comfort to think that Sudan is doing some advance work: we know that we are talking about a delicate species, undefended and endangered. Peaceful and sometimes overconfident (it’s not hard to get close to them and swim together), it often swims above water along the coasts, along coral reef barriers, in the lagoons and for this reason it’s often easily fished especially in the oriental seas where the population has passed from subsistence fishing to commercial fishing. In fact several parts of the body are used, such as gills, as ingredients for soups or traditional medicines of Chinese pharmacy.
We have been unaware spectators for many years of this heritage, we benefited generously of their presences, being content with information gathered from experience, visiting the lagoons, news gathered from the fishermen: now the researches enrich our patrimony and we feel even more part of this marine Sudan and its surprises. We await a response, confirmation and news, hoping for a full success of the project of which we can all contribute, guests of the cruises included, by collecting information, photographs, pointing out sightings that, delivered to the biologists, can for sure be useful and completion to the studies and research.