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Meet the giants of the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific waters between the Galápagos Islands and the coast of Ecuador attract a host of migratory sea creatures, gather one of the world’s largest known populations of giant manta rays, and act as an essential whale shark breeding ground. To protect these vulnerable sea creatures, WWF, local partners such as Megafauna Marina del Ecuador Foundation, and the government of Ecuador have committed to conserving marine and coastal areas of greatest importance to marine megafauna.

MIGRATION ROUTES


Migration routes of Giant Manta Rays and Whale Sharks

WHALE SHARK
Whale Shark
Every year, whale sharks make their way from the Galápagos Islands into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean and back to the coast of Ecuador and Peru. Scientists are still researching the path of global migration, but they have identified Ecuador’s key role in whale shark life: Up to 90% of the whale sharks in Ecuadorian waters are pregnant, and this is one of the few places where whale sharks are known to give birth.

SIZE 60 to 65 feet
WEIGHT 84,000 pounds
RANGE Tropical and subtropical waters, except the Mediterranean
POPULATION Unknown; likely decline by 50% in the last 75 years

GIANT MANTA RAY
Giant Manta Ray
Between May and June, giant manta rays arrive at the coast of Ecuador with the intention of mating, giving birth, and feeding. They take advantage of the areas where cleaner fish that remove microparasites from their bodies aggregate. Scientists have monitored the movement of these Ecuadorian manta rays over thousands of miles, northwest beyond the Galápagos Islands and south to Peru. While the global population is unknown, scientists have recorded a population of around 2,700 individuals in Ecuador.

SIZE 20 to 30 feet wide
WEIGHT up to 4,000 pounds
RANGE Tropical and subtropical waters, except the Mediterranean
POPULATION Unknown; significantly reduced over the last 75 years and considered vulnerable

PROTECTED AREAS


Map of protected areas in Ecuador

Gigantes del Pacífico supports the management of the recently designated marine reserves—including Bajo Copé and Cantagallo-Machalilla—which cover more than 60 miles of coastline. Instead of prohibiting any kind of human activity within their borders, these protected areas regulate the activities and develop sustainable fishing and tourism practices. This promotes the economic health of the community while protecting the well-being of the ecosystem. The project also supports scientific research to answer the many questions that remain about whale sharks and giant manta rays.

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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