Rescuing a manatee
Manatees are endangered globally and in Belize, mariners have posed a major threat to their survival. But biologists and manatee researchers have taken up the challenge to rescue the mammals in distress. While a few recent rescue missions have been unsuccessful, today a manatee calf was captured near Duke Marine on the Northern Highway. While it didn’t have any physical injuries, the calf appeared malnourished and was taken to a rehabilitation facility in Corozal to determine if there are any further medical problems. Nicole Auil Gomez of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute spoke to News Five about the condition of the rescued manatee.
Nicole Auil Gomez, Conservation Biologist/Consultant, CZMAI
“We had a report of a small manatee that was in the river just north of Duke Marine and the security guard here expressed that the manatee has actually been here for about a week, which is unusual for a free ranging animal to be in one location like this. This is normally the type of situation where we find that the animal needs care.”
“What kind of health condition is it in?”
Nicole Auil Gomez
“Well, we took a blood sample so we’re going to rush that to the lab to see more details there. On external examination, the skin is sloughing; it has a very narrow neck base which means it hasn’t been eating; you can see a bit of its back bone; and when you turn it on its stomach, it has very loose skin indicating that it hasn’t been eating for a while. It’s a small animal, its less than two meters. It could have still been with its mom and it could have possibly still been nursing but we found it alone. There was no other animal with it. So we’re airing on the side of caution and we’re sending it up to Sarteneja where they have the rehabilitation facilities there.”
“What kind of danger was this calf in had it stayed in this area?”
Nicole Auil Gomez
“It could have starved. If it stayed longer we could have been picking up a carcass and we would have called for a carcass reported instead of a live stranding report. So basically we don’t know what’s wrong and often times we don’t know until they’re dead and we open it up. We had one of the last two in rehabilitation—we have one in rehabilitation right now and it had a partner, another animal and it actually died. Nobody knew why it died and when it was opened, its gut was twisted. There was nothing we could have done, there was no indication. It’s feeding normally and everything looks normal and then all of a sudden, it dies and when you open up the carcass and it’s really something we couldn’t have done anything about. So these things we don’t know, we don’t have the diagnostic tools, we don’t have the tools in the field to be looking inside a manatee to see what’s going on. So we just do our best and with the best educated guess we can and support from veterinarians abroad and locally, what is the best course of action to take.”
The calf, which was named Duke, was taken to the Belize Manatee rehabilitation center in Sarteneja. The facility is near the Shipstern Lagoon and is equipped with three pools for the marine mammals. Duke will have the company of another manatee named Twiggy, who has been in rehabilitation for two years.