PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas, June 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Yesterday at Atlantis, Paradise Island resort in The Bahamas, one of only two aquariums in the Western Hemisphere to presently care for and study the manta ray, a marine scientist and a team of 20 marine aquarists successfully completed the transfer of a 700+ pound manta nicknamed "Leyley" with a 11.4-foot wingspan from the resort's 2.7-million gallon marine habitat back into the Atlantic Ocean, as part of their renowned release and research program.
Leyley's transfer marks the 13th manta ray release for the resort, whose marine husbandry practices and research have contributed greatly to data collection of the species.
Leyley's journey commenced at 7:50 a.m. with a comprehensive medical examination, including blood sampling by the resort's veterinarian and the installation of a satellite tag by Dr. Robert Hueter, Senior Scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. Soon after, Leyley was transferred using a hand-woven net stretched across a custom-engineered frame designed to withstand the weight of a manta, the largest known species of ray. Once she was comfortably settled, the helicopter raised the net on a hydraulically welded frame to ensure her maximum safety and comfort. The transfer took 105 seconds, from lift-off to the ocean.
As part of its multi-year research efforts in tagging manta rays, Mote will track Leyley's journey and the depths and temperatures she encounters, to help understand the migratory behavior and survival of released mantas. This data will be valuable not only to Atlantis in their care for mantas, but to many aquariums, marine researchers and educators, as they work in tandem to learn more about this one-of-a-kind, mysterious giant of the marine world. The public can search for Leyley and view her migration patterns in near-real-time by visiting: http://www.ocearch.org/.
"We are thrilled to tag and track our sixth manta ray in partnership with Atlantis," said Mote Senior Scientist Hueter. "We are outfitting this animal with two tags to gather finer-scale data on immediate post-release behavior and acquire some longer-term migration data. We look forward to tracking this animal's journey and sharing it with the world."
Background on Atlantis' marine programs
Atlantis guests are able to go behind the scenes with the Marine Team to better understand how the team of over 165 marine experts care for, rescue and rehabilitate, and contribute to research for about 250 species of marine animals. They are also able to participate in the "Snorkel the Ruins" program, which allows guests to come face-to-face with over 20,000 marine animals.
A portion of the cost of Atlantis' marine interactive programs goes back to the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation (ABPF), the resort's nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to saving sea species and their extraordinary habitats throughout The Bahamas and surrounding Caribbean seas.
Background on Mote-tagged manta rays
Since 2008, Mote Marine Laboratory Senior Scientist Dr. Robert Hueter and his staff with Mote's Center for Shark Research have aided with the tagging of six manta rays released from Atlantis, Paradise Island, and have tagged another manta ray found in the Gulf of Mexico.
2008: Zeus was released from the Atlantis aquarium and was tracked for one month, during which this manta traveled to the U.S. Atlantic coast in waters off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
2011: Apollo was released from Atlantis and tracked for three months, during which this manta traveled to waters off Cape Canaveral, Florida.
2013: Poseidon was released and tracked for nearly four months and traveled through the Gulf of Mexico to the Chandeleur Islands off Louisiana.
2013: Athena was released and tracked for three months to the northeast coast of Cuba.
In 2013, another manta ray tagged by Mote in Gulf of Mexico waters off Sarasota, Florida, was tracked for a month and traveled south to waters off Sanibel Island.
Atlantis, Paradise Island is a lush, oceanside resort located on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. A dynamic destination that launched 20 years ago as a first-of-its-kind modern marvel of nature and engineering, Atlantis has embarked on a new chapter tied to a meaningful connection with the ocean, Bahamian culture and the spirit of the property's over 7,500 employees. The resort's new, immersive programming connects guests to the rich history, art, people, food and festivities of The Bahamas.
Atlantis features five distinct properties in which to stay, from the iconic The Royal to The Beach and The Coral to the luxury properties, The Cove and The Reef. The Coral has reopened as a fully redesigned family escape with a new lobby, new rooms, and new amenities, including a new pool designed by Jeffrey Beers. Recently, The Cove celebrated a series of new design collaborations, restaurants and guest experiences, each paying homage to Bahamian traditions, culture, cuisine, colorful design and the ocean that surrounds the islands. The opening of the new Cove brings two restaurants – SipSip, led by Bahamian Chef Julie Lightbourn and Fish, by renowned Master Chef José Andres, a newly designed poolscape and cabana sanctuary designed by Lulu DK and a soul-stirring art installation created by Antonius Roberts.
The resort is built around Aquaventure, an innovative, 141-acre waterscape of thrilling slides and river rides, pools and white sand beaches. Home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world, over 50,000 marine animals from 250 species make their home in the ocean fed environments. From unparalleled meeting and convention space to the luxury Atlantis Marina accommodating yachts up to 220 feet in length overlooking Marina Village, a Bahamian marketplace, the Atlantis experiences are endless. Other resort amenities include the 30,000sf tranquil Mandara Spa, Atlantis Kids Adventures (AKA) for children ages 3-12 and CRUSH, a cutting-edge teen club. The resort's award-winning 18-hole Tom Weiskopf designed golf course, renowned Atlantis Casino and duty free shopping are complemented by the property's 40 restaurants and lounges with celebrity chef culinary masterpieces including Nobu, by Nobu Matsuhisa; Olives, by Todd English and Casa D'Angelo by Chef Angelo Elia.
Dolphin Cay, the resort's 14-acre marine mammal habitat, is a state-of-the-art education center and animal-rescue rehabilitation hospital whose first residents were 17 rescue dolphins from Hurricane Katrina. Visitors to Dolphin Cay can participate in creative, non-disruptive "interactions" that build real awareness, stir emotion and help fund the resort's conservation efforts. Through these guest participations and those offered through Atlantis Marine Adventures, a portion of the cost of each of the new on-property interactions goes back to the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation (ABPF), the resort's nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to saving sea species and their extraordinary habitats throughout The Bahamas and surrounding Caribbean seas.
The Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization, was founded in 2007 with the mission of saving sea species and their extraordinary habitats throughout The Bahamas and surrounding Caribbean seas. By funding scientific research, conservation programs and community outreach efforts, its mission is to protect the waters and its vast marine wildlife ensuring that The Bahamas will remain a haven for a myriad of one-of-a-kind, rare and endangered species for generations to come. The Foundation receives its funding through guest participation in Atlantis, Paradise Island's marine interactions and experiences.
Efforts include but are not limited to: developing and implementing marine habitat protection and restoration strategies, conducting ongoing coral reef research, training individuals in marine ecosystem research and management, as well as animal husbandry, the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine wildlife including sea turtles, manatees and dolphins, creating programs to heighten public awareness of the ocean and its inhabitants and delivering marine education programs to communities and schools.