Monday, February 16, 2009

Bonaire Report #1: Flamingo Tongue Cowrie

Flamingo Tongue Cowrie(Cyphoma gibbosum)

Cowries are a group of snails that are of great interest to shell collectors because of their beautiful designs. The shells are very polished and shiny and feature a wide range of colorful patterns. They are nocturnal and eat algae and dead animals. Some species will feed on both hard and soft corals. The flamingo tongue is not recommended for the aquarium, as it tends not to live long in captivity.

These cowries were photographed in about thirty feet of water at the Alice in Wonderland dive site. At times I came across literally hundreds of these on gorgonians, sponges, soft and hard corals.

Although beautiful, the cowries appear to me to be as destructive as the Crown of Thorn Starfish found in the Hawaiian Islands.

The waters of Bonaire are protected by the Marine Environment Ordinance, an Island Ordinance approved and passed by the Island Government of Bonaire in 1991 for the purpose of protecting the marine environment around Bonaire from the high water mark to the 60m depth contour. The Ordinance includes all provisions on the statute books for protecting the marine environment (protection of turtle nests and eggs, protection of corals from collection etc) and the exploitation of fish stocks (prohibition on spearfishing, restrictions on use of nets etc). It was revised in April 2001 to take into account the inclusion of the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire under the management of the Bonaire National Marine Park. STINAPA Bonaire National Parks Foundation oversees both the Bonaire National Marine Park and Washington Slagbaai National Park.

So removal of these animals is strictly prohibited.

And...although the Flamingo Cowries are quite beautiful, I personally think the Pink Flamingo's on Bonaire are a bit more beautiful.One thing about Flamingo's though, which I did not know until I went to Bonaire, is that they are very difficult animals to photograph. They will run when spooked and have a have a very keen sense of danger from a far, which makes photographing them tough.

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