Captain Jeff Leicher of Jack’s Diving Locker captured a very rare sight – manta rays mating! Guests aboard Kea Nui were thrilled when they slipped into the crystal clear waters off the Kona Coast to view something very special.
“These animals were definitely doing a courtship ritual that resembled a beautiful ballet,” states Captain Teri Leicher who was guiding a group of snorkelers. “And, if this wasn’t enough, a pod of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins swam right next to us as we were watching this amazing occurrence in nature and a green sea turtle cruised by, too. The marine life in Kona is something else!”
Manta Man, Keller Laros identified the male as Scar and the female as Maluhia. Laros started the Manta Rays of Kona, Hawaii Identification Catalog in 1991 that is now administered through Manta Pacific Research Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Laros. Scar was first identified in October 1995 and was easy to name because of the scars along the rear of his right pectoral fin. Maluhia was first identified in April 1996 and was described as a large female at that time. Her name means “peace” in the Hawaiian language.
“Hopefully, we will have a baby manta ray in about a year,” says Laros. The gestation period for manta rays is 370 days.
The reef or near shore manta species, Manta alfredi, are listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN, “This species has a very conservative life history with an extremely low reproductive output. In the wild, females bear on average a single pup every 2–3 years.”
Images by Jeff Leicher – June 30, 2016 – Kona, Hawaii