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Joined: Oct 1999
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With all the negatives flowing out of Belize, it's easy to forget that we live in a country so often described as "The Jewel". Belizeans have many things to be proud of, and our unique manatee population is one such thing.

With the extinction of the Sterller's Sea Cow, only four species of Manatee are still in existence: the Amazonian, West African, West Indian and Dugong manatee. The West Indian manatee had two sub- species, which are the Florida and the Antillian Manatee.

Truly magnificent creatures, manatees are the only herbivorous mammals in our waters. They provide ecological balance by eating sea grass and recycling nutrients that nourish smaller fish, which are in turn food for larger fish.

They also provide financial gain for the country as they serve as a very popular attraction in a country that thrives on tourism.

Growing from 10 to 13 feet long and weighing approximately 1200 to over 3,000 pounds, to see a manatee in the water should be nothing short of breathtaking, and Belizeans can take pride in the fact the country is home to the largest population of Antillian Manatees is the world.

While that should bolster Belizeans' ego, the reality of manatees in Belize is that with only approximately 1,000 left, we won't be too proud for too long, if the conservation efforts of the Coastal Zone management doesn't receive the full support of the Belizean public.

The Reporter spoke with Jamal Galvez, research assistant working with the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), and Sea to Shore Alliance, who said that the population of manatees in Belize is "no where near the required amount for sustainable development."

CZMAI's manatee project began in 2006, and it is geared towards research and managing the Antillian Manatee population. They also work to educate the public on the need to protect this fragile and gentle creature.

Research data collected from January 2005 to December 2010 puts the number of manatee deaths at 76.

The data shows a marked increase from 7 deaths per year, to 19 deaths per year. While 19 per year may be a pittance to the 1000 that are counted, it is notable that while female manatee are capable of reproduction from as early as three years, males are not capable until 7-10 years.

Coupled with the fact that a manatee carries a single calf for a whole year before giving birth and on average bears one calf every 3-5 years, every manatee lost puts the species one step closer to extinction.

The raw data for the injuries and deaths for the years 2011 and 2012 have not been formalized into an official report; however, it depicts a first glance impression of an increase in injuries and deaths due to human interference.

If the number of deaths persist the manatee in Belize will go extinct, if that happens other Countries which are relying on the manatee population in Belize to rebound will also lose out on having their manatee population restored.

Countries in the region where manatees are now extinct are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Saint Barth�lemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin (French part), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

With these factors in mind, the CZMAI have worked tirelessly in the research, protection, rehabilitation, and conservation of the Antillia Manatee. Several projects have already taken effect and others are yet to be implemented.

One of the more recent activities for the CZMAI is the lobbying for the "No Wake" zones to be enforced at the mouth of the Belize River.

The area is a frequently visited spot for manatees, and many of them are injured by speeding boats. The CZMAI posted clearly visible signs in the area, and are working in collaboration with the Belize Port Authority to ensure that boats travel the required 5 miles per hour when moving through the zone.

The CZMAI, a division of the Belize Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, has a strategic conservation plan for 2012, which is a collaborative effort with Sea to Shore Alliance.

The plan is to use mark-recapture methodologies with the application of passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags and genetic marker analysis. Manatees will be caught in the wild, genetic samples taken, and given a Pit tag. Once the manatee is released, it will be monitored and its movement patterns and other data will be observed.

The genetic samples will be compared with samples from other manatees from other regions, and the data will be compiled and analysed.

This initiative, which CZMAI has dubbed as Capture Week, continues from June 11-15, 2012

The Reporter

Manatee Encounter in Belize

Encounter with an Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) off Soldier Caye, Turneffe Atoll, Belize.

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Years of manatee research in Belize and Cuba

While the streets and highways are populated with SUV's and pose a minimal risk for pedestrians, our coastal waters also hold dangers for one large mammal. Manatees face a distinct threat from mariners whose boats either injure or kill them in the areas that they live. That is why the Sea to Shore Alliance's conservation work in Belize has been paramount in the survival of the species. News Five caught up with doctor James Powell, the Executive Director of Sea to Shore Alliance, who was giving a presentation at the Coastal Zone Management and Institute about the organization's ongoing manatee research in Belize and Cuba.

Dr. James Powell, Executive Director, Sea to Shore Alliance

James Powell

"Today, I am giving a presentation about the work that we've been doing here in Belize and also for interest and comparison the work we have been doing in Cuba. In fact, we have some Cuban biologists here working in Belize on this trip because we'll use it as a training and learning opportunity. In Belize we have had some of the longest term manatee research going on in the Caribbean so it is fabulous place for people to learn about manatee; to do research on them and what needs to be done to protect them."

Jose Sanchez

"Is there anything in particular that the public would want to be aware of that you are giving in this presentation?"

Dr. James Powell

"Yes. One of the main reasons we're giving this presentation is that once upon a time, manatees were hunted, but we've learned from some of the research that we are doing that more and more manatees are being killed by boats; just like they are in Florida. So one of the purposes of our work here is to find out where and why we are getting more and more dead manatees killed by boats and how much are being injured by getting hit by boats."

Jose Sanchez

"Do we have any numbers on your research so far of how many have been killed or hit by boats?"

Dr. James Powell

"This year I think there have been eight manatees that have been killed and last year there were about nineteen manatees killed. And what we are seeing is-and we have been doing this work for almost fifteen years-is that when we catch them and we radio tag them, we are finding more and more of them with boat scars; where they have been hit."

Jose Sanchez

"Speaking of tagging, you intended to do some catch and release earlier today; what can you tell us about that?"

Dr. James Powell

"Yeah exactly right catch and release but really big. We catch the manatees and we do health assessment son them just like you would go to the doctors. We collect blood and take measurements and then we put satellite tags on them so that we can tract their movements. And the reason we do this is not only just to learn about manatees and their general biology, but also to find out where their most important habitats are and how much time they spend in some places which we may be able to provide with the tags. But if they only spend a part of their time there and then go somewhere else and then we are only protecting one place. So the tag allows us to know where they stay and when."

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
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VIDEO: Protect The Manatees

We can all do our part to help protect the manatees in Belize.

Raising awareness on endangered manatees species during manatee month

The manatee, locally known as the sea cow,� is listed as an endangered species in Belize; it is estimated that the population is between seven hundred and nine hundred.� Over the years, there have been continuous efforts to protect the local manatee habitat from threats by boaters.� In Belize City today, as part of the activities this month to build awareness about the large sea mammal, The Manatee Research Center organized a program for students. Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

Youths from across the country have been getting a crash course on the manatee and today at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute Office on Princess Margaret Drive; it was Belize City's turn. Students from various schools in the Old Capital formed cues as they took turns, in different groups, to get a good grasp on the life of the manatees.

Jamal Galvez

Jamal Galvez, Manatee Research Associate, CZMAI

"We are trying to get communities and the individuals in the communities involved. Manatees, even though Belize has the highest population of this species, we need this help and for change to happen we need this nation, we need the entire country to know and learn about these things and our intention is once we educate people about manatees, they may see the need for them to protect them. It's basically to teach these children the manatee habitat, the needs, and what are the threats and what they can do. The simple things such as don't throw garbage in the water because something as simple as a plastic bag can be serious danger for manatee."

Belize currently has the largest population of the Trichechus manatus or the Antillean manatee. The herbivorous mammal, however, is endangered; the life of the species is being threatened by boaters, polluters as well as mega tourism developments. And according to Manatee Research Associate, Jamal Galvez, he is targeting the youths to try and prevent or even minimize the number of casualties.

Jamal Galvez

"We wanted to make it interactive so we put a bunch of videos in there that they can relate to with manatees communicating-talking like human beings and talking about their problems. Like for instance you may say that mommy noh wanna buy me a sneakers because it is expensive. Their problems are boats so they are discussing their problems that oh you can’t hang out in this area because the boats are high in this area. So the videos are basically for them to have a very good vision of what manatee life is-what they do every day, what they see every day; what's the life down under."

And so we tested the kids to see if they were able to retain the vast amount of information that was presented.� And they were impressive.

Lyon Green

Lyon Green, Student

"A next name for manatee is the sea cow and they have to come up every thirty seconds to get air to breathe under water and they can breathe for fifteen minutes under water and then dehn go for more air."

Karina Espat, Student

"I learnt that they have eyelashes and they have fingernails too. And you should really take care of them and try not to hurt them."

Aliyah Azueta

Aliyah Azueta, Student

"I learned that we should protect the manatees and not throw anything in the water."

The activity is being held under the theme, "Celebrate and Protect your manatees, Belize." Duane Moody for News Five.

A poster competition for the primary school and an essay competition for high school are also being done in celebration of manatee month.�

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
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The Sudden Rise in Popularity of Belize's "Sea Cow"

Manatee and calf

More and more people are said to be travelling to Belize just to see the gentle, grazing marine mammal, which is considered by many people to have inspired the myth of the mermaid.

A naturalist guide at the Lodge at Chaa Creek cited a recent article in the Charleston South Carolina Post and Courier as highlighting a growing interest in one of Belize's favourite animals, the manatee, and raises concerns that this iconic Belizean marine mammal may be relocating.

Brion Young, who is also assistant manager of Chaa Creek's Belize Natural History Centre, said the Post and Courier article confirms his own observations about the manatee's growing popularity.

"It seems that the manatee is attracting more attention in our northern neighbours and appears to be growing in numbers when making its annual passage up and down the Atlantic Coast.

"That's good news for us, as public awareness is important for any endangered species.

"But the article also raises issues about whether or not the manatees are relocating, and if so, why? That's something environmentalists will want to start monitoring," Mr Young said.

The Post Courier article quotes James "Buddy" Powell of the "Sea to Shore Alliance", a marine ecology advocacy that tracks manatees, as saying;

"There's even some suspicion that manatees might be gradually relocating. They have been spotted as far north as Massachusetts and now are seen more commonly up and down the East Coast," Powell said.

Mr Powell explained that the manatees might be expanding their range due to population growth or because of warming waters and such threats of increased recreational boat traffic forcing the animals to move to less-crowded waters and making them more reluctant to return.

Mr Young said that manatees are something the average Belizean is well aware of and most locals take precautions to avoid hitting the docile, slow moving creatures.

And while there are many things that draw people to Belize, from the stunning scenery to the many ancient Maya archaeological sites scattered through the tiny country's vast rainforests and protected jungle habitats,naturalist guides at the Lodge at Chaa Creek confirm that an increasing number of visitors say they are also drawn to Belize's less dramatic but no less loveable manatee.

Mr Young, said that there has been a rise in interest in the gentle mammals, which are known in Belize as "sea cows" and in other parts of the world as dugongs.

"I'm not surprised by their appeal. There is something loveable and gentle about them, but the increase in attention has taken our guides a bit by surprise," he said, "Manatees have been around forever, but aren't exactly what you'd call the rock stars of the Belizean marine life," Mr Young said.

And given the huge diversity of exotic wildlife teeming both inland in in Belize's waters, that's not surprising. Inland, the country supports healthy populations of various monkeys, big cats such as jaguars and ocelots, tapirs and other tropical forest denizens, as well a riot of colourful birds such as parrots, macaws, hummingbirds and hundreds of other species.

And with the Caribbean sea teeming with rays, turtles, an assortment of fish to put any aquarium to shame and individuals such as the whale shark, the world's largest fish, the unassuming manatee would seem to need to struggle to get attention.

Hoverer, more and more people are said to be travelling to Belize just to see the gentle, grazing marine mammal, which is considered by many people to have inspired the myth of the mermaid.

Especially while calving, the manatee's breasts can appear quite prominent and, combined with the imagination of lonely mariners may have led to speculation of sea going damsels beckoning from the horizon.

Today's manatee watchers seem to find appeal in the animals' serene motion and gentle beauty as they graze along the bottom, hence the local Belizean name of sea cow.

Once prized as a source of food, the manatee is no longer hunted, Mr Young said, and this had led to a resurgence in their numbers, and possibly greater familiarity and interest in them.

"Now that they have less reason to fear people we're more likely to see them, and with their cute puppy-dog faces people find them irresistible," Mr Young said, "I never expected that the manatee would be a big draw but they really are these days, especially among the children. In fact, we're hoping to find some cuddly plush manatee toys for our gift shop," "Mr Young said, "I'd probably be ordering a few myself. They're that adorable."



The Manatee is large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows.

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Wildtracks - Feeding Duke - Belize, 2012

Duke was rescued by volunteers near Belize City and brought to Wildtracks early in 2012. Wildtracks and its amazing volunteers put an enormous amount of time, energy and love into his treatment and rehabilitation. Sadly Duke was never able to recover sufficiently to be able to eat enough on his own and be successfully released back into the wild. After more than two and a half years of daily loving care and treatment, Duke died on September 25, 2014. Wildtracks and its dedicated volunteers are also caring for other manatees as well as Howler and Spider Monkeys and other species, all with the goal of release to the wild if at all possible. Losing Duke is devastating but their work goes on to not only save but restore so many others to their natural habitats. There have been many successes and there will be many more. But Duke will be missed. Here's to Duke.

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Manatees in Belize

Earlier this month, we were lucky enough to stumble upon five manatees during a routine survey at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. In honor of Manatee Awareness Month, we put together this quirky, little video.

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Marty Offline OP
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2015 A Bad Year For Manatees

Click photos for more pictures!

In 2014, a record number of manatees (34) were found dead in Belizean waters. Sixty-five percent of the deaths were caused by boats. In the last seven days, two manatees have suffered the same terrible fate: death by propeller. Support efforts on the water to help curb this disturbing trend. Respect no-wake zones and minimize speed in high traffic areas.

Oceana Belize

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One cannot but enjoy this video from Wildtracks.

Today we are celebrating manatees with a short video of Khaleesi...injecting some quiet manatee moments into your busy day!

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The Incredible Story Of How This Man Saved A Baby Manatee Will Melt Your Heart


A baby manatee is recovering nicely after being rescued by a young volunteer last year.

Mitchell Thomas, 19, found the too-cute-for-words mammal while volunteering for Wildtracks Manatee and Primate Rehabilitation in Belize.

"This little man was found in the waters of Belize struggling to stay at the surface after his mother was presumably killed by a boat," Thomas wrote on Imgur. "An adult manatee was found dead nearby."

Since Thomas was the one responsible for saving the little guy, the conservation and research non-profit named the manatee Mitchell.

Mitch the manatee was taken to the rehabilitation center on June 30, where he was wrapped in a wet t-shirt and doused with water to keep his skin from drying out.

"When he first was placed in the back of the truck, I realized what awful shape he was in," Thomas told BuzzFeed News. "His body seized and thrashed every time he tried to take a breath. Each breath was a wheezy gasp. He was in a lot of pain, probably from a bruised rib or shoulder."

Mitch was in pretty bad shape so Thomas made sure that his new friend had as much help as possible.

"It was clear he was going to need someone to support him at all hours of the day," he said. "I timed his breaths on the way back to Wildtracks and was the first person to hop into the intensive care pool with him. He was lowered into the water and all the volunteers huddled around to see what would happen. He immediately struggled to stay at the surface and I had to hold him up to allow him to breathe."

Over the course of the next week, there was someone to monitor and support Mitch 24 hours a day.

"It was as if every breath he was terrified he was going to take in water," Thomas said. "We thought perhaps he had nearly drowned and was afraid it would happen again. I was very concerned he wouldn't make it through the first night. He proved to be a real fighter though! All the volunteers took turns; one person sitting in the water and one person sitting out of the water to time his breaths and get help if needed. I remember sitting in the pool with him in the chilly water in the dark at 3 am and thinking there was no where else I would rather be."

How's this for adorable overload? Mitch loves sucking on people's fingers or rest on the backs of their knees.

"Without his mother, I think he was just searching for the interaction and attention he would have been receiving from her," Thomas said. "As soon as someone entered the water he stayed right near them. He would maintain constant contact with you if you moved around the pool."

Mitch now shares the pool with another rescued calf, bonding and getting to know each other. Thomas just loves the idea of that.

"It's great knowing that he will one day be returned to the wild where he belongs," he said.

You can donate to Wildtracks here.

Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,461
No manatees are not important. Certainly not as important as cruise ship tourism. We are decimating the manatee population around Belize City (the largest known breeding ground for this species) and now will do the same buy allowing cruise ship passengers to rent and drive fast boats on Placencia lagoon and murder that population. All satisfy the cruise ship passengers. Who are important. Manatees are not

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