Soneva Fushi Hosts Conservationists Olly and Suzi

Maldives Promotion House – The manta ray, a creature of remarkable beauty and graceful motions is a symbol of tranquillity. In groups they are also one of the most spectacular sights that every diver desires. Despite their wonderful place in nature, the manta ray population has greatly decreased due to overfishing.

The two British artists Olly Williams and Suzi Winstanley, who specialise in collaborative painting of wildlife, are attempting to create awareness and to prevent the extinction of these species.

Since 1993 Olly and Suzi have taken part in more than 50 expeditions. During these expeditions they have painted numerous predators and their prey at close proximity from their natural habitat. Their collaborative work has been exhibited in various galleries internationally.

Soneva Fushi by Six Senses is acting as their host during the duo’s new focus on manta rays and sharks. Olly and Suzi are currently at Soneva Fushi, and will stay until 19th July 2011, to work closely with Kate Wilson, the resort’s full time marine biologist.

To them, this is an exciting opportunity not to be missed. They first worked underwater with whale sharks in 2000 in the northern Galapagos. The sight of these gentle, silent and majestic giants have inspired them ever since.

They are keen to learn more about the threats and challenges to the aquatic environment, and the major issues faced by these creatures. They hope that the local community and resident conservationists and biologists can share their ideas to find a solution to these challenges.

Eva Shivdasani, co-founder of Soneva Fushi, is also a keen campaigner against the tragic loss of sharks due to shark fishing and shark fining. While many of these species have been killed to harvest their fins, a valuable delicacy in China and on some other Asian countries, Eva has been actively driving campaigns to get as many restaurants around the world to stop serving shark fin soup. She also played a big part in getting the Maldives governments to agree to ban shark fishing.

“The big fight now is to save the whale shark and mantas. Unfortunately, shark fin soup has a horrible status in Asia, and it’s devastating for the shark population. But we are seeing signs of hope with the younger generation in Asia,” the Creative Director of Soneva, Eva said.

“Fifteen years ago we also worked hard on a ban on catching turtles. I’m so happy that Olly and Suzi are helping us raise awareness for the plights of such beautiful creatures. The whale sharks and mantas in particular are so majestic,” Eva added.

Olly and Suzi’s manta ray and shark art will be on display in 2012, with 30 percent of the sales to be given to Blue Marine Foundation. The foundation will be sponsored by Six Senses’ Maldivian Resorts for the next three years.

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