Conserving Threatened Species - Projects

Whale shark in Djibouti

Whale shark in Djibouti

Photo: David Obura

Whale Sharks and Manta Rays of the Maldives

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and manta rays (Manta alfredi and Manta birostris) are listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable, meaning that their populations are declining. With their spectacular large size and their regular occurrence in Maldivian waters, they are of great value to the country’s tourism - they are a popular sighting for wildlife viewers and a sought-after attraction for tour operators. Interestingly, these species are actually poorly known and much studying still needs to be done to better understand their biological needs and to guide protection efforts.

The IUCN project, Understanding and Conserving the Gentle Giants of the Oceans , with funding by Global Blue and USAID, and with the help of partners including Maldives manta ray and whale shark research programs, aims to: facilitate research to increase knowledge of the local whale sharks and manta rays, increase awareness about these species and provide recommendations for conservation and management of these species in selected areas

To reach these goals, IUCN is establishing working partnership with many local stakeholders. Building on the knowledge already acquired, it is assisting in developing and disseminating educational material and research data. Such material was used to develop a set of best practices to help the conservation of the species.

A series of workshops has been organised, mainly for resort biologists, tour operators and dive instructors. The workshops focus on whale sharks and manta rays identification (down to the individual) and biology, on data collection and on best practices to follow when bringing visitors to view the animals.

Olive Ridley turtle in ghost net

Olive Ridley turtle in ghost net

Photo: Olive Ridley Project

Maldives Marine Turtles and the ghost net removal project

Charismatic marine species in the Maldives also include sea turtles. Five species can be seen in the country’s waters: green turtle, hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback and olive-ridley. Green and hawksbill turtles nest there, laying their eggs in sandy beaches.

Most species of marine turtles are on the decline. One of the treats they face is entanglement in lost or discarded fishing nets. Many of these nets end up in the Maldives islands, pushed by monsoon currents that cross the Indian Ocean. In these nets, turtles and other marine wildlife are found, some still alive, many wounded or dead.

To address this problem, IUCN partnered with the Olive Ridley Project to support their mission to remove ghost nets from Maldivian waters.

Through Project REGNERATE, IUCN Maldives Marine is also working with the Maldives Marine Research Center on improving the monitoring of sea turtles in the country. A identification manual is being developed and will soon be available here. 

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