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Mozambique is a goldmine for marine megafauna researchers. Unlike other locations in the world where elusive giant manta rays and whale sharks only appear periodically, such as at times of high plankton availability for feeding, Mozambique’s coastline is home to these enormous animals year round.

This constant access to marine megafauna provides a unique opportunity for researchers to better study these graceful giants and create an in-depth library of data. The ability to record the populations and to study their habits and biological and ecological data means that the conservation requirements of these threatened species can be determined with authority and thus presented to policy makers.

Tofo researchers Dr Simon Pierce, who specializes in whale sharks, and Dr Andrea Marshall, founder of Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna and a world-leading specialist in manta rays, have been recording identities using the animals’ markings, which are as individual as human fingerprints.

Some of Marshall’s findings include 50 Cent, recognizable by its markings that look like the number 50 and bite marks in the shape of a coin; Jessica Alba and Eva Mendes, two particularly beautiful mantas; Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford's famous action/adventure archeologist character) with a lasso-like tail; Madiba (Nelson Mandela's nickname), the gentle, regal giant manta; Lucy Liu, identified by the double L markings; and Yoko Ono identified by the Y and O markings.

Marshall has named other rays after great ocean explorers, such as Magellan, Columbus and Cousteau, as well as one of her own living inspirations, rower and environmental advocate Roz Savage.

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