MICHELLE VARINATA WRITES – In the eyes of international media, Indonesia is well-known for receiving a barrage of bad rap for its flawed handling of environmental issues.  Recently, however, the Indonesian authorities have taken this criticism to heart and have decided to tackle the problem of illegal manta ray trading.

The Bali-based Indonesian Manta Project announced on their Facebook page that they have worked with American organizations, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Conservation International to protect manta rays by building a sanctuary in Indonesian waters. From there, the Indonesian Manta Project praised the country’s action of putting their words into action in a Facebook post. Because Indonesia is one of the most active South East Asian countries on Facebook and other social media sites, the country’s takedown on the illegal manta ray trade shatters the stereotype that Indonesians are passive to react against important issues like protecting endangered wildlife.

Since it is an endangered species of the Indonesian seas, manta rays are often hunted for their gills, which are extracted for “medicinal” purposes in order to “clean out toxins” in the body. This practice of hunting and selling manta rays is illegal since these animals only give birth once every two years, as reported by The New York Times. According to National Geographic, violating the law to sell manta ray meat will set a seller back $25,000 USD, which is more than the national average monthly income of $850 USD.

Recently, a seller was arrested in West Java for trying to sell a manta ray. Seeing the Indonesian government intervene in the manta ray trade is huge progress for the country, and one can hope that this will not be the end of efforts to preserve these beautiful sea creatures.

Let’s not make manta ray gills the new mink fur.