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The great animals to protect in the great barrier reef

Orca

November 2, 2021

EIGHT IMPORTANT ANIMALS OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

THE GREAT BARRIER REEF FOUNDATION

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is an Australian non-profit organization established in 1999 after the first massive coral bleaching event in 1998. With the primary goal of protecting and saving reefs, the Foundation has more than 200 projects underway, all based in science, community action and pioneering technologies that help restore reefs.

The Great Barrier Reef, located in northeast Australia, is the largest reef and living structure on Earth. Considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world, it is known for its biodiversity, its enormous ecological value and its beauty. The area is currently home to thousands of species of marine life. This fact, along with its clear, temperate waters and easy accessibility make it a very popular destination among avid divers.

Diving in these protected waters is a wonderful opportunity to swim with some truly amazing creatures. The following species are some of the many unique species found only in this area, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1981.

GIANT CLAMS

These creatures are one of many wonders that can be seen in the warm waters of the reef. With an average life expectancy of about 100 years, giant clams can weigh up to 200 kilos. Their most noticable characteristics include a wide variety of colors, thanks to the contrast between their natural pigmentation and the algae that grow inside them. In fact, a giant clam's color is an indicator of its overall health. If the clam is in poor health, dying algae will cause it to take on a bright white color. 

MANTA RAYS

With a wingspan of up to seven meters and a weight of around two tons, these are the largest fish in the world. Despite their large size, they are completely harmless to humans. The solitary manta ray travels long distances across the ocean with the sole aim of finding food.
Along with dolphins, primates and elephants, they have one of the highest levels of intelligence and long-term memory among animals. They are able to map their surroundings using sight and smell. As defense against possible threats, they have a venomous stinger at the base of their tail.

HUMPHEAD WRASSE

Its thick lips and characteristic bump on the head give this fish an unusual appearance. The passive and friendly species is the largest member of the Labridae family, found in the tropical waters of nearly 50 countries. Also called the king of coral reefs, the Humphead Wrasse can reach almost two meters in length, weigh up to 200 kilos and live for up to 30 years.

Today they are endangered due to their reputation of being delicious. Hong Kong, which has one of the highest per capita fish consumption rates in the world, considers it a delicacy.

SHARKS

The Great Barrier Reef is home to over a hundred different species of sharks. It is not uncommon to find sharks of any size from the smallest, such as Wobbegongs, to the largest, such as the Whale Shark. The great white shark, of huge proportions, as well as the tiger shark, the gray reef shark, and the prickly shark, among others, also live in the reef. Despite their great variety, sharks currently risk boat attacks and bycatch by commercial fishing vessels.

CLOWNFISH

The clownfish depends on its symbiotic relationship with the anemone for survival. It protects the clownfish from predators and provides it with extra food. In return, the clownfish uses its bright colors to attract other fish to the anemone, which will serve as food after dying from the poison. Although clownfish are not endangered, their population has declined in some areas. This is because they account for 43% of the world's marine ornamental fish trade, and 75% of these fish are caught in the wild.

SEA TURTLES

The sea turtle is one of the oldest animals on the planet, considering that fossils of this species exist that are at least 120 million years old. Despite this, it is estimated that only one in a thousand survive to reach adulthood. The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the seven species of sea turtles in the world.

Unfortunately, scientists have warned about the decline of the green sea turtle population in recent years. The main reason behind it is that their nests and eggs get flooded. Tides displace the nests and this results in fewer hatchlings and turtles returning to the sea exhausted, unable to find a safe nesting place.

POTATO GROUPER

This native Australian fish belongs to the Serranidae family. Their main characteristic is the size of their large mouths. A relative of this species, the Giant Grouper, is the largest species of bony fish found in the coral reef. It can grow to more than two meters long and its weight can reach up to 400 kilos. 

WHALE

Between June and November, thousands of whales migrate from the coldest waters of Antarctica to the warmest waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Their goal is to reproduce and give birth. Although about 10,000 whales are estimated to make this trip to escape the cold, Humpback whales and Mink whales are most likely to be spotted in the reef.

These are just eight of the many species that inhabit the reef. It is currently home to 1,625 types of fish, 630 species of starfish and sea urchins, 215 species of birds, including 22 species of seabirds and 32 shorebirds, 133 species of sharks and rays, 30 species of whales and dolphins, six of the world's seven species of sea turtles and one of the world's most significant populations of the dugongs, which are marine mammals.

Preserving the reef, as well as other coral reefs around the world, is critical to maintaining the health of the oceans, as they host a quarter of all marine life in addition to protecting coasts from erosion, floods and storms. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation carries out this hugely valuable task by taking practical action and fundraising to support the work and innovative technologies made possible by the greatest minds in Australia.

ABOUT GREAT BARRIER REEF FOUNDATION

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation was established in 1999 following the first mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in 1998. Right now, the Foundation has more than 200 Reef-saving projects underway grounded in science, community action and pioneering technologies, working to protect and restore the Reef. We’re using independent science to better understand the true condition of the Reef and the threats it faces so we know where to focus our efforts. We inform and educate people on what needs to be done to address the causes of the problem, including advising governments and industry. And we raise funds to take practical action, funding hard work and innovative technologies from the best minds in Australia and beyond to protect and restore the Reef. Saving the Reef is a huge task, but it’s one that we can and must meet. By working together we will save the Reef and the marine life who call it home for future generations.