It’s our second day of the MantaWatch Internship Program 2018, and our third day in Labuan Bajo. I still can’t believe that I’m here, and that we’ll be studying and learning in this amazing part of Indonesia for the next four weeks.

Yesterday we learned about MantaWatch and our tasks and responsibilities during the internship programme. Today we took our first steps to learn about manta rays and their conservation with our mentors Vidlia, Miko and Andy. It was really fun to learn so much about mantas.

We started with a discussion about manta ecology and identification. We learned that mantas are one of the biggest creatures in the ocean, and have many ecological, cultural and economic values. Two species are known so far, the giant manta (Manta birostris) and the reef manta (Manta alfredi). We learned how to identify these species, as well as learning about their taxonomy, appearance, and life-cycle.

Next, we discussed manta conservation. Vidlia explained that mantas face many threats, including the destruction of important breeding, feeding and nursery habitats. Other issues like pollution, bycatch and overfishing also threaten manta rays. But we learned that there is also hope, and that Indonesia has already created the regulations to protect manta rays and establish the biggest manta sanctuary in the world! We hope these regulations can be implemented effectively.

At the end of the day we had a chance to put our new knowledge into practice. We learned how to deliver a manta conservation briefing to tourists, and then practised creating our own briefing. It was fun, but also a little nervous. One by one we each presented our briefing to the group. Firman was first, then Corina, Revani, and finally me. We gave each other feedback, and had a chance to practice our public speaking and improve our English.

Today I learned something amazing! Mantas eat plankton, some of the smallest organisms in the ocean. But they eat so much that every day mantas consume about 20% of their body weight. An adult manta weighs one tonne or more, so every day they need 200 kg of food. Amazing!

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and curious to see what we will learn. I also can’t wait to meet my first manta!

Irfan Firdaus

Irfan Firdaus

Irfan  is a final year student of Marine Science at the University of Brawijaya. Irfan received a gold medal in the 29th National Student Scientific Week for his research into sustainable fishing technologies with fishermen of East Java. He worked as a Site Observer for WWF where he helped to develop the Electro Shield System, […]