Project Manta on the lookout for Bundy's pink manta

KEY RESEARCH: The Project Manta research team has a skin sample of Inspector Clousseau, the pink manta ray spotted at Lady Elliott Island.
KEY RESEARCH: The Project Manta research team has a skin sample of Inspector Clousseau, the pink manta ray spotted at Lady Elliott Island.

FRANCE has it's Pink Panther but Bundy has the famous pink manta and research group Project Manta has high hopes of spotting the unique creature upon their return to local waters later this month.

The nationwide, multidisciplinary research group was established in 2007 and has been travelling the country studying manta rays - one of their ray hotspots is Lady Elliott Island.

"Lady Elliot is one of our main study sites, with our first trip starting there in 2008," Project leader Dr Kathy Townsend said.

"LEI is a hotspot for mantas on the east coast, as is Musgrave Reef, which is also in the Capricorn Bunker group.

"We also work in Western Australia in Coral Bay. Which is another Australian hotspot for manta rays."

The project investigates key biological parameters (including population size, reproduction rates, growth rates, the pattern, timing and magnitude of movement patterns and the effectiveness of current conservation management in Australian waters.

"We saw the pink manta in Sept 2015 and again in Sept 2016," Dr Townsend said.

"We are hoping for another sighting next month."

The first half of the year was productive at Lady Elliott Island, as PhD students Amelia and Asia had a whistle stop visit to the island to set up an acoustic array of listening stations around the high-use cleaning station of Lighthouse Bommie in February.

This array is set to provide information on the fine-scale habitat use of tagged manta rays to this site, and improve their understanding of the ecological importance of cleaning station visitation for this species.

More recently, the team returned to the island and kicked multiple goals during the visit. Conducting the annual photo survey of the manta rays at this site; acoustic tags and some fine-scale mapping of the reef around Lighthouse Bommie the project can't get enough of the local ray habitat. For more visit their Facebook page.

Topics:  bundaberg lady elliot island nature ocean tourism

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