Dead Manatee Washed Up In Yabra Community Tries to Save Calf

Belize's endangered population of Antillean manatees took another hit this morning - as another manatee washed up on the coast flailing - the product of another propeller mauling.

But this one was an even greater loss, because the manatee was pregnant - and Monica Bodden went to witness what the community did to try in vain to save the calf - here's her story:

Monica Bodden Reporting
This female adult manatee - weighing no less than 500 pounds - was found floating in the sea near the shore of this Yabra community.

She was first spotted by neighbors around 6 o'clock this morning.

Edwin Maheia - Resident
"In the morning I woke up and I saw the manatee out here. It looks like a boat hit it because we heard a noise this morning. "

The large propeller wounds on its back tell us that this female manatee was hit by a boat.

Edwin Maheia - Resident
"I tried to see if I could pull it out of the sea to see if it was alive but it was already dead".

Monica Bodden
"It was already dead at that time."

Edwin Maheia - Resident
"Yes, but I tried to take her out and try to do something about it because it looks like this female is pregnant. But she is dead."

Monica Bodden
"Why would you say that you think it's a female?"

Edwin Maheia - Resident
"Because milk was coming out of its breast and it was big and looked pregnant."

Concern Neighbor
"My neighbor and I came out here about 7 o'clock this morning and we saw the Manatee bleeding profusely from the back with two really large lacerations and its liver looks like it was hanging out. Shortly after that we tried to move the Manatee and we notice the Manatee was lactating."

"In concern for the calf, I kept calling and asking around to different agencies to see if somebody could help us and confirm that indeed the mother was pregnant."

The manatee was indeed carrying its young calf.

According to area residents, they tried contacting the Belize Coastal Zone Management all morning to assist with the situation.

And when they didn't show up - They say fearing for the safety of the young calf - with the proper authorization necessary - they began cutting the animal open at around 12:30 this afternoon.

Concern Neighbor
"Fearing for the safety of the potential calf, we call Mrs. Zoe Walker who is in Sarteneja and she gave us authorization to say go ahead open the animal and see if the baby is inside. If the baby is not inside then you know what organize a search party and try to rescue the young Manatee, so that was the thought behind our actions."

But the crude field surgery was unsuccessful because the baby manatee was already dead inside its mother.

Concern Neighbor
"When we first saw it the animal was moving very faintly, it was still partially alive - you can see it breathing really slowly and about half an hour later it you can see that it was dead - head under water, very stiff."

Jamal Galves - Manatee Research Associate - Coastal Zone Management
"About 10 o' clock my friend from Southern Environmental Association call me about it and her friend call me and told me about it and about the possibility that a calf may have been in the area, so I got there about 10:30, I scan the area and I didn't see a calf, I saw that the animal was pregnant and it was dead but I had to return to do my assessment. When I got there I see that someone had already dissected the animal. I investigate the animal to see if the animal was hit by a boat and that there was a calf inside the animal as well. So I took my measurements genetic samples and stuff like that."

And to be dissecting manatees is illegal - that is without the proper authorization.

Jamal Galves - Manatee Research Associate - Coastal Zone Management
"These are protected under the wild life protection act and so you have to have special permission in order to do such things and at no time someone should have a dead or alive Manatee in their possession at any time. So it's illegal for someone to do it without permission from the authorities."

Samples were taken by both animals that will be taken to the lab for proper testing. And then the carcass of the animals was lifted from off the beach and taken away by the Belize City Council to be properly disposed of.

There was a spike in human - related manatee deaths in Belize last year - with 17 reported through October 2010 compared to an average of11 per year.

Belize is home to the largest known breeding population of Manatees.

Channel 7