Research – MMF
Our scientific work generally focuses on species-level population ecology and conservation biology, with considerable overlap between the two areas. Our major ongoing global research programs are focused on manta rays (Manta alfredi and M. birostris) and whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). These huge plankton-feeders congregate year-round in the highly-productive coastal waters along the southern Mozambican coast, presenting an ideal opportunity for on-going research on these huge yet enigmatic fish. Other research projects also examine some of the more unique and/or threatened species found in Mozambique such as sea turtles, dugongs, and the small-eyed stingray.
MANTA RAYS ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Both, reef manta rays (M. alfredi) and giant manta rays (M. birostris), are found together in Mozambican waters, one of the only locations where this occurs. Southern Ecuador boasts the largest population of giant manta rays in the world, with some of the largest individuals on record. Our international research projects aim to define their population structure and size, identify local critical habitats and to obtain basic biological and ecological data on these gigantic rays.
WHALE SHARK ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Juvenile whale sharks aggregate in high densities to feed along the southern Mozambican coast, which has led to the development of a burgeoning tourism industry based around snorkeling with the sharks. Our research is designed to provide data on the population structure, migratory patterns and the conservation requirements of these threatened sharks.
SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION
Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species are found within Mozambican waters, all of which are either endangered or critically endangered. Sadly, though all sea turtles are fully protected in Mozambican waters, all are still caught illegally for food. We are working to track the extent of poaching locally, and to assist the authorities with enforcement.
SHARKS & RAYS: BIOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY AND FISHERIES
Mozambican waters contain a diverse elasmobranch fauna, including many that are seldom seen elsewhere. We are tracking population trends in some fished species, assessing catches of exploited sharks and rays and working to document the poorly known biodiversity along this coast. One major discovery was that Mozambique appears to be the only place in the world where divers can view the enormous small-eyed stingray (Dasyatis microps), which has only recently been recorded from the western Indian Ocean.
Southern Mozambique boasts one of the last remaining viable populations of dugongs (Dugong dugon). MMF is working with organizations like the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to estimate the population size of sub-populations along the coast and track the movements of individuals to examine the extent of their range. One of the priorities of MMF’s dugong project is to identify and help curb anthropogenic threats putting pressure on this dwindling population. As a protected species, dugong poaching and by-catch are being monitored to assist the authorities with enforcement and proper management.