November 20, 2019

Off Africa’s Coast, a Race to ‘Save Our Ocean Giants from Extinction’

News Source: The Washington Times

Author(s): Geoff Hill

JOHANNESBURG — One of Africa’s most urgent ecological crises has nothing to do with rhinos or mountain gorillas and is taking place far from the continent’s fabled savannas and mountain rain forests.

The rich marine ecosystem off the coast of Mozambique is “in free fall,” according to biologists who are increasingly sounding the alarm that some critical species could be lost within the decade.

Whale shark numbers are tumbling, along with manta rays. Dugongs — a relative of the manatee — are down to a single, viable population.

Originally from California, Andrea Marshall has made a study of sea life in Mozambique and heads the U.S.-based Marine Megafauna Foundation. She is also the first person ever to earn a PhD. focusing on manta rays, which are rated as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

In an interview, she says the goal of her work in Mozambique is “to save our ocean giants from extinction.”

Almost two decades ago, Ms. Marshall went diving near Inhambane, 230 miles north of the capital, Maputo, describing the experience as akin to “finding a lost world, undisturbed and rich with life.”

Now, she says, she fears that world is being wiped out.