Manta Rays Magic

Posted in Wildlife A-Z | November 2, 2010 | Comment Now

Wild manta rays can never be accustomed to surface swimming that is slow, especially if it is for a fixed period of time. They do not usually swim at the surface post meals or after being handled by humans. Therefore, how can you train a giant manta that is in captive? How do you get a manta to feed from a ladle and then swim into a stretcher for veterinary purposes?

Ladle Training

Getting a giant manta ray into an aquarium is a huge responsibility. The staff at the aquarium must ensure that the animal gets all the nutrition and nourishment that it needs. The Georgia Aquarium located in Atlanta, Georgia is a unique one, in that they teach their mantas to feed from a ladle that is color coded.

Giant manta rays traditionally consume plankton. In this respect, they are filter feeders. However, they do consume tiny fish as well. While feeding, these beautiful creatures tend to spread out their cephalic lobes that are hornlike. This is done to direct the water, rich in food, to their mouth. When in the wild, this species of manta rays are known to swim in vertical loops. They somersault and chain feed in sea regions rich with food.

The manta rays present at Georgia Aquarium have been trained to feed in an exhibit, which is home to four whale sharks and tons of fish. Teaching the manta rays to feed at a particular station within the community tank has its advantages. Close monitoring of their diets is one such advantage. The manta rays are also trained to respond to the sounds of a feeding pump.

Stretcher Training

Quite recently, the International Marine Animal Trainers Association, also known as IMATA, published a paper in Soundings. The paper was authored by Dennis Christen (who is also a curator of Animal Training and Interactive Programs at the Georgia Aquarium) and Chris Schreiber (who is associate curator of Fish and Invertebrates of the Ocean Voyager Gallery). The study outlines how stretcher-training facilitates physical examinations of a captive manta ray. The study references training of the two species of manta rays: Nandi and Tallulah. The unique stretcher training techniques of the aquarium are also well documented.

The team at the aquarium has come out with a plan to train these manta rays to swim into the stretcher out of their own free will. This has been done to conduct routine, health examinations. The feeding station of the manta ray was relocated to the other end of the exhibit. The manta ray was also desensitized to feeding near large objects in the water. They then swam through a mock stretcher apparatus. This was carried out for several months. A vinyl stretcher, which was custom-built, was also included into the training regimen. Both the manta rays, who were trained separately for one year, showed a positive signs toward swimming voluntarily into the stretcher.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge