How do you feel about sliding up to a 1,500 pound giant marine animal? It’s scary, especially if that animal looks like it could swallow you whole within the blink of an eye. That’s what Amy Ippoliti did this past summer. The Yogi and Prana ambassador slipped into the Caribbean waters to join the giant manta rays. According to her, the experience left her in awe! “I was like a kid in a candy shop. It was so exciting for me to jump into the water with these magnificent creatures. The abundance was just overwhelming.”
The underwater rendezvous was meant to showcase the existence of an inter species connection between animals and man. She hopes this will help many people understand that its worth protecting and preserving this incredible animals. Manta rays are being harvested globally by organized fishing programs, and in unsustainable numbers. The fishermen want the gill rakers that the rays use to gather food and this has led to a booming gill rakers market in China due to their medicinal values.No proof however, is available to show that the gill rakers can cure any ailment.
Taro Smith, the man who took these shots, says that activists are of two types; those who wait patiently to become financially viable and those who use shock journalism to initiate the change they want. For five days, Amy and Taro worked with underwater photographer and conservationist Shawn Hendricks, Hanna Fraser, a professional mermaid and Louie Psihoyos, the director of The Cove, an Academy Winning film. They wanted to incorporate art with new conservation approaches. Ippolti was recruited as the face of this amazing project- to showcase her talents with an equally exceptional animal.
The photographers took test shots during the eight months she spent in Boulder, Colorado training, swimming and doing lots of breathing exercises. Then after floating around the Caribbean with the animals, they got the perfect shot. Smith’s perfect shot was a still of Ippoliti engaged peacefully in a yoga pose next to the manta ray. “There are others that might be more technically perfect,” he said “but that one captures this giant looping magnificent creature that most people are kind of afraid of.”
They hope that these pictures will draw people into their conservation efforts using curiosity rather than shock-and -awe tactics. To help protect, the marine giants, Ippoliti suggests the following:
- If possible, do not eat fish and if you have to, use the Seafood Watch app to ensure you are only served sustainable species when shopping or eating out.
- When buying pet food, read the labels to make sure that fish ingredients used are from sustainable species only. Do not flush down the toilet, commercial and non-biodegradable cat litter
- Do not go to restaurants that have shark-fin soup on their menu
- Buy only organic produce. This will help you avoid pesticides used on regular plants that can run into the rivers and oceans.
- Avoid purchasing food that is in plastic containers and always carry a re-usable bottle.
- While at the beach, pick up liter in the water or on the sand.
- Support organizations like the Manta Ray Of Hope, Wild Aid, Shark Savers and the Oceanic Preservation Society.