Manta ray by Tam Sawers

This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke with Tam Sawers from Manta Trust.

Name: Tam Sawers

Role: Maldives Project Leader

Company: Manta Trust

Top Tip: Education is key and we need to lead by example

Quick Fire Questions

1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation? 

As far back as I can remember I have always had a passion for nature and all things waterbound. Growing up along the Eastern Cape Coast of South Africa, I was lucky to have been exposed to the natural beauties along this untouched coastline. Fulfilling the lifetime ambition to conserve this environment and the wildlife therein, I pursued a degree in BSc Zoology and later an MSc in Marine Environmental Management.

2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?

I pursued volunteer and educational opportunities. Then dedicated time and effort to all academic studies and followed my true passion of being in the water and learning more about the animals of the sea.

3. How did you obtain your current position?

I conducted a research internship for my MSc with the Manta Trust in 2014. I was lucky enough to be one of the volunteers selected for this post and I made every minute of my time out in the Maldives count. From start to finish it was truly the best experience of my life and I have not looked back since. I work with an incredible team of people who are passionate about the work we do and I am inspired each day by their dedication.

I live for those incredible moments in the water with the manta rays and learning something new about them every day.

4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

Sharing my love for manta rays with anyone interested in learning more about them.

I enjoy watching the reactions of kids and adults as they encounter mantas for the first time and the levels of excitement and joy that follow thereafter.

I treasure every minute spent in the water with these manta rays and am forever fascinated by these graceful creatures- each encounter is unique and special and many of them have very quirky personalities ?.

5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

Education is key- “In the end we will only conserve what we love; we will only love what we understand; and we will understand what we are taught.” (Baba Dioum, 1968). At Manta Trust there is a huge emphasis on spreading awareness and educating the general public. All of the research we do is used to support proposals for change and to ensure the protection and conservation of these animals and their habitat.

The joy and fascination I see in the reactions of those witnessing manta rays for the first time is truly rewarding and I can only hope that this will inspire people to take action and to protect their natural environment and the animals therein.

6. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

Interpersonal skills – both in personnel management and interacting with authorities and resort executives.

Swimming skills- Endurance and confidence in abilities to carrying out fieldwork.

7. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

I would like to leave you with two quotes:

In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand what we have been taught.” Baba Dioum

  • Education is key- and we need to lead by example.

“Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.” – Sylvia Earle

  • The sea feeds us, entertains us and excites us, in good faith we need to show our gratitude.

8. What is your favourite marine creature and why?

I would be lying if I didn’t say Manta rays ?

9. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?

My first encounter with an oceanic black morph manta ray.

Witnessing the largest aggregation of manta rays every recorded in Hanifaru Bay and ecstatically observing a manta cyclone feeding event with only one other member of the team. – I just got excited all over again… Hehe.

“The sea feeds us, entertains us and excites us, in good faith we need to show our gratitude”

Tam Sawers

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