Pedrito is a 13-year-old boy studying at Bomba School. He learned to swim and to snorkel through the Marine Megafauna Foundation’s (MMF) Nemos Pequenos program at Tofo Beach. One day, the MMF team and Nemos students went out on an ocean safari to see marine giants like manta rays and whale sharks. This was the first time that Pedrito had swum in the open ocean, away from the shore.
They came to the right place, and began to equip themselves for the adventure. Pedrito jumped into the water, and soon he saw a Manta Ray. He panicked and wanted to swim away! But the Manta saw him and said: “Hey hey, stop there. Let’s talk a bit!” Pedrito relaxed a little and stopped. They began to talk…
Pedrito: – Okay, I stopped. You are so big, and you look like a bird. Are you a marine bird?
Manta: – Well, some people say I’m like an underwater seabird, but actually I’m a Manta Ray.
Pedrito: – Oh I’ve heard of you. Some people say that you attack the boats with your fins. Is that true?
Manta: – No no noooo! I’m not dangerous, I don’t attack humans. I have large fins, but they are not hard. I don’t have bones; I have cartilage, which is soft like your ear and your nose. I don’t hurt anyone.
Pedrito: – So what do you eat?
Manta: – Aaaaah, I eat tiny plants and animals in the water called plankton. I open my mouth when I swim and filter a lot of plankton in my mouth with the help of my gills.
Pedrito: – Somebody told me that you are very smart! Tell me more about your skills.
Manta: – Well, I have the largest brain of any fish. Because of my large brain, I can smell easily, I can work in a team with my friends (other mantas), and communicate.
Pedrito: – Wow!! That is really intelligent! When do you work together as a team?
Manta: – We work as a team when we are eating. We help each other using our bodies to push water that is full of plankton into our mouths.
Pedrito: – Hmmm, that’s interesting! Do you usually go to many different places in the ocean?
Manta: – Aaah, yeah. I can make long journeys across the ocean, down to South Africa for example. Sometimes I travel to places like Tofo, where there are small fishes to clean my body.
Pedrito: – You said that you usually eat with other Mantas. Where are your friends, the other Mantas today?
Manta: – They are swimming in other places; but now there are not many of us in the sea. Unfortunately, many fishermen fish us for food or catch us by accident. Some fishermen leave nets and ropes in the water, these bind and hurt us. People also throw rubbish on the beach which harms us. These things are causing us to die and disappear from the sea.
Pedrito: – Aaah, what a sad situation! But there is hope! Did you know that the Marine Megafauna Foundation is working hard to protect you, and other ocean giants?
Manta: – Is that true my friend!? That’s the best news!
Pedrito: – Yeah, buddy. Marine Megafauna Foundation is teaching people living along our coast about you and other ocean giants. Children and adults are learning that manta rays, sea turtles and whale shark are in trouble and need to be protected! They are also talking with the government to create laws to stop you being fished.
Manta: – Wow… I am very happy to hear this. I am very happy to have met you. Many thanks.
Pedrito: – You’re welcome my friend. I will tell my friends about you, and remind them not to leave rubbish on the beach…
Manta: Thank you very much.
Pedrito: Bye bye…
Razaque Quive works as a Conservator and Marine Biology Educator for the Marine Megafauna Foundation at Tofo, Mozambique.