Animal Welfare / Environment

MAGIC MANTA’S: Six Senses Laamu recognised as leaders in Maldives marine conservation

Words by Matt Leedham
LearnStay
Manta Trust researcher Haisham Rasheed approaches a wild reef manta ray to scan it.

Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives has launched the world’s first non-invasive underwater ultrasound scanner to help conserve Manta Rays.

MUI (The Maldives Underwater Initiative) is an inspirational team of ten marine biologists from Six Senses Laamu, the Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation and Olive Ridley Project who lead the tourism industry in the Maldives with marine conservation efforts based on research, education and community outreach.

All four partners are working towards the long-term protection of Laamu’s precious marine resources, collaborating with the local community to create a network of marine reserves.

The Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) at Six Senses Laamu was founded in 2012 on the principle of uniting people and organisations with a shared vision for the conservation of the marine environment in Laamu Atoll.

With this vision in mind, MUI facilitated introductions between the creators of the world’s first non-invasive underwater ultrasound scanner and provided a site for field testing at Six Senses Laamu.

What’s the challenge?

Laamu is home to 125 reef manta rays, which display courtship behaviour during two annual courtship periods: May-June and October-November. Each year the Manta Trust has identified between one and 11 pregnancies.

“We know very little about where these reef manta rays go to give birth and how long gestation lasts in the wild. This ultrasound technology could allow us to determine rates of reproduction in the wild and this information would help guide conservation strategies for this threatened species.”


Nicole Pelletier, Manta Trust project manager at Six Senses Laamu.

What’s the solution?

Two years ago, MUI brought together some of the great minds in veterinary technology and challenged them to create a device that could ultrasound scan Laamu’s resident population of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi).

Following a visit to Six Senses Laamu, Vetsonic (UK) Ltd Founder Ray Rochester approached veterinary imaging leaders IMV Imaging with the idea of developing a scanner to meet the rigours of diving at Manta Point.

Manta Point is a manta ray cleaning station (the manta ray equivalent of a Six Senses Spa) just a 10-minute boat ride from the resort that researchers from the Manta Trust have been studying since 2014.

IMV Imaging’s Duo-Scan:Go Oceanic is the first ever technology to allow contactless scanning of wild marine animals at deep depths while also being portable – the dive rig weighs less than 2 kilograms.

View of Manta Point, the manta ray cleaning station nearby Six Senses Laamu, where field testing was conducted.

The aim of bringing this technology to Laamu was to scan wild pregnant reef manta rays in order to study gestation and embryonic development.

Six Senses Laamu is the only resort in the Laamu Atoll, deep in the Indian Ocean, and surrounded by a pristine coral house reef.

The Six Senses philosophy is one of uncompromised responsibility to sustainability and the community. All of the natural villas on the atoll offer a sense of privacy and seclusion, with an amazing view of the Ocean and Maldivian nature.

What will the positive impact be?

“MUI aims to be a marine conservation visionary,” says Marteyne van Well, Six Senses Laamu general manager, “One of the ways we’re leading conservation efforts in the Maldives is by providing a platform for discussions on, and the field testing of, this world-first technology.”

Manta Trust researchers have been field testing the Duo-Scan: Go Oceanic in Laamu for the past year and a half. Over this period, they successfully developed approach methods and obtained ultrasound scans of wild pregnant and non-pregnant reef manta rays.

MUI (The Maldives Underwater Initiative) team, Six Senses Laamu

A key driver in the success of their community involvement has also been the Eku Eky program that brings together local government councils from all 11 of Laamu Atoll’s inhabited islands.

The program has provided a platform to build strong relationships with the community, discussing solutions to goals such as making Laamu the first single-use plastic-free Atoll in the Maldives.

As part of their vision to increase involvement by the community in their efforts, the MUI Six Senses team are working on developing education programs targeted at creating the next generation of Maldivians to be guardians of their oceans.

Find out more:
Six Senses Laamu
Maldives Underwater Initiative
Manta Trust
Blue Marine Foundation
Olive Ridley Project

Eku Eky program, Six Senses Laamu

How can you travel to change the world?

Congratulations! By reading this post and taking some of these insights on board, you’ve already made a difference.

Now you can easily create your impact by sharing your new-found knowledge with other friends who you think would also be interested.

Ultimately, responsible travel comes down to common sense – stay curious, keep yourself up-to-date with the challenges at hand and make yourself accountable for your actions on your travels.

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