Manta rays are among the most charismatic and iconic species in the ocean. With the largest brain of all fish, their intelligence and curiosity make encounters with these animals a truly amazing experience for divers and snorkelers. But they are now facing an increasingly uncertain future.
The trade in their gills has exploded in recent years, driven predominantly by a demand in Traditional Chinese Medicine that views manta gills as a highly-prized ingredient in dubious medicinal concoctions. Used in traditional remedies, the gills are supposed to cure a wide range of health issues from acne to cancer, although this has never been scientifically proven.
Manta gills are particularly popular among the traders due to their large size. Illegal shark finners, having already devastated shark populations, are now switching their attention to this new and valuable species.
Wildlife presenter and journalist Malaika Vaz follows the trade pipeline from fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean to the Indo-Myanmar border, and finally undercover in the wildlife trafficking hubs of Hong Kong and Guangzhou in China.
This film also documents the behind-the-scenes race to protect manta giants as they slide towards the brink of extinction. Effective protection and enforcement of regulations are practically non-existent. Given the backdrop of a global pandemic that almost certainly originated from the wildlife trade, the film is more relevant than ever before.
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