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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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June is manatee-mating season - and today we saw a herd of male manatees following a single female along the Belize City coastline. We found them thrashing around near Bally Gardens, that's where the female had come right up to the shore - to try and escape her many suitors. That's right, this is nature at its wildest, not a romance novel - and as manatee expert Jamal Galvez explained - during the time when she is in estrous (what we would call "heat,"), life for the female marine mammal is difficult, and physically stressful. In fact, it's perilous for the whole herd following her - and that's why boaters also have to be extra cautious:..

Jamal Galvez, Sea to Shore Manatee Pgm Coordinator
"Normally the female when it get estrous "in heat" it draws a lot of males. You could find 20-30 males chasing one female at any point in time and it can go on for a week to two weeks."

Jules Vasquez
"All this splashing about and turbulence we are seeing here is not courtship, it's actually the males are trying to initiate pretty much by force coitus."

Jamal Galvez
"Correct, unlike human beings we have the privilege of who we mate or who we date. Manatees'don't get that choice, it's the dominant males, and normally the stronger males is the one that gets there. Sometimes you have more than one dominant male fighting among each other - not necessarily fighting, but trying to get closer to the female. Normally we would see this very close to shore, mainly to aid the female. In order for the males to mate the female they need to get under the female and if she is shallow water, probably lie on her stomach, it's very difficult to get underneath her. But in deeper water they can easily get underneath her and in the deeper water you have 4-5 males trying to on at the same time - kind of eventually drown the female. Like I said this can go on for a week to two weeks the males leave and go and feed and come back while the female stays here while the other males take shift."

Jules Vasquez
"She can't even eat?"

Jamal Galvez
"Not necessarily. As you can see these males aren't even allowing her to come up to breathe, so breathing is tedious as well. With the conditions they are in to have 2,3,4 - thousand pound Manatee lying on top of you - just could imagine being in the water you need to come up to get air as well is very complicated. So we are begging the boaters please be on the lookout. We would want to hear any dead Manatee coming up this week as a result of this that's why we are making it aware. Once you are traveling along the Belize river area please be on the lookout for these Manatees. They are slow moving creatures, they are difficult to get out of the way and when they are mating they tend to gazed away so a boat could come up close and the animal wouldn't even be responding from the boat's presence."

Jules Vasquez
"Boats traveling in which zones should be most aware? From where to where?"

Jamal Galvez
"Once you are traveling anywhere towards the Belize river; Haulover Creek, that area right now is avery cautious area, we are hoping that you be very cautious and be on the lookout. Put out preventive measure, a bow man on your bow to lookout to see if they see any Manatees. You can identify them from the mud footprints as you can see out here. Normally when they are mating you will see a lot of mud footprints, a lot of splashing and lots of activities. So if you can be on the lookout and see how best you can avoid it. If you can avoid the area or if you are in the area, you are ask to please travel with cautious speed."

And after all that competition, this female will only bear a single calf after a one year gestation. She won't go into heat again for another 5 years or so.

As Galvez said, this mating activity can go on for at least two weeks - so boaters need to be on the alert. Residents of the area say they've seen the herd thrashing about since Saturday.

Channel 7

It's manatee mating season

Sightings of manatees in our coastal waters are no rare occurrence, in fact, the large sea mammals are usually spotted near the mouth of the Belize River.� What is uncommon is the location of a large herd near the city's shoreline�but it is mating season.� This morning, Program Coordinator for the Belize Manatee Conservation Program, Jamal Galvez was alerted to the presence of a wounded manatee in the area of Bally Gardens near mile four on the Phillip Goldson Highway.� When he responded to the scene, Galvez was shocked to find that a herd of up to twenty-five bulls were taking turns mating with a sea cow, in estrus, in the shallow waters nearby.� While the copulation of these mammals is rarely caught on film, boaters are being advised to exercise caution in the area since manatee traffic has increased considerably.

Jamal Galvez, Program Coordinator, Belize Manatee Conservation Program

Jamal Galvez

"We were called out first of all about an injured manatee. We went out there and realized that it was a mating heard. It has been there since last Saturday from what I have understand. Manatees mate all year around, but we tend to see it more around summer time and it is a very interesting way to see manatees. It is not the normal behavior; it is very aggressive. It is twenty to twenty-five males chasing one female. It is right there at mile four; we went out there and we investigated and we saw a huge female chased by twenty to twenty-five males like I just said. And it is really reassuring based on the last two weeks of manatee deaths that we have had to see manatees mating, which assures us that there may be one or two calves-cause they can have two, but they normally have one-coming in the next twelve months because they are pregnant for twelve months, like horse. So it is really great news and it is encouraging that the population is actually revolving and there is addition to the population despite the increase in manatee deaths."

Isani Cayetano

"What are the warnings at this point seeing as though water crafts may be trafficking that particular area and you have all these animals that are near to the shore?"

Jamal Galvez

"Exactly, the area that they are in is the Belize River area; it is the area that has the highest percentage of manatee deaths every year�last year twenty-eight and it just has been going up every year. So we are pleading to motor, anybody that is traveling in that area, please be on the lookout for these manatees. I expect that they are going to be up and down in that area for the next week or so. So if you are in that area, please just take a minute to keep an eye out, have a lookout at the bow or put other precautionary measures in place so we don't have any incidents with these manatees. We can’t afford any more manatee deaths as it is right now. The amount that we've had so far this year is not good news at all. It was good to see the animals are intermingling, they are mating and hopefully in the next twelve months, we may have something from the activities that we saw out there today."

A total of four manatees were killed during the last week in May in an area not distant from where the herd has gathered.

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Female Manatee Drowned In Mating Frenzy

Last night we had a rare look at a manatee mating herd along the Belize City coastline: about 20 male manatees, relentless in their pursuit of a single female. The mating frenzy wasn't pretty, but that's how it happens in nature.  Sadly, this morning we found out that she didn't make it.  The female was found dead along the seawall about 150 feet south of where we saw the gathering yesterday.  Residents say that the violent thrashing from the males continued until about 6:00 pm, which is when she started to weaken.  Shortly after, she showed no signs of life – which didn't immediately stop the males either. 

We went out there with Jamal Galvez this morning:

Jamal Galvez - Sea to Shore Manatee Pgm Coordinator
"Yesterday, I left here ecstatic and an excited person, as you saw yesterday with what was happening, to see that there is a possible to see that we'd have manatee back in the population once this process was continued or finished. But, it's the nature of the beast, Jules, it's not something that we can control. That's just a way of life for them, and it's unfortunate because, as you know, their reproduction cycle, and the problem that they already have with their reproduction cycle. That hinders the population with these kind of complications that these animals have to deal with, that adds to it, and adding to it what we as human beings bring on the population, it's sad to actually witness this, or to actually see this, especially after yesterday, but it's out of our control."

Jules Vasquez
"The resident here, he called yesterday at around 6 saying that they'll kill her because he saw that she was tiring, and they were relentless. But in a situation like that, was there anything you could have done?"

Jamal Galvez
"I personally which there was something that I could have done, Jules. But, as you have seen yesterday how determined these guys were. We were right there standing, and they weren't bothered, and these are shy animals. They weren't bothered by us at all. I wouldn't intervene, first of all, because it's the nature. That's there life; I shouldn't intervene or try - even if I tried chasing them away, or to go - they'll go somewhere else and continue with the process. There is nothing that I could have stopped this. Studies show that it has worked for them for years, but they have incidents - just like in human being - they may have complications during pregnancy. It's sad that we now have another dead manatee, which the last thing that I would want to see or hear about with the amount that we have had in the last couple of months now. This is probably the 14th so far for this year, and we're only 6 months into the year, so it's not good news at all. As you see, we've lost out on 2 or 3 animals with this one, because with this one giving birth, it could have been 2 more to the population."

Jules Vasquez
"It doesn't seem like a functional way to propagate a species. Is this right?"

Jamal Galvez
"By our standards, it wouldn't be right. By our beliefs, it wouldn't be right. But, by manatee standards, and by their way of life, it's considered fair game. It's just the nature of their mating herd. It's very aggressive. Everybody wants to get in on it, and none is considerate about the female. They're not courting or being gentle. That's just the way it is, and it's unfortunate. This animal may have died from exhaustion or maybe even drowning because imagine 3 or 4 animals at 1,000 pounds each trying to get unto you in water, and you're unable to keep your head above water. It makes it complicated for the female."

Galvez performed a necropsy, which showed that she had water in her lungs, so most likely she was drowned under the crushing weight of one of the male manatees. 

And while this frenzy is over, still, boaters are reminded that the summer months are known for manatee mating herds, so those moving along the Belize City coastline, should still exercise caution.

Channel 7

Manatees mating in Belize

Manatees do not form permanent pair bonds like some animal species. During breeding, a single female or cow, will be followed by a group of a dozen or more males or bulls, forming a mating herd. They appear to breed indiscriminately during this time; however, age experience of some males in the herd probably plays a role in breeding success. Although breeding and birth may occur at any time during the year, there appears to be a broad spring-summer calving peak. We are pleading to boaters to please be on the look out for manatee mating herds while on the waters. If seen contact the Coastal Zone Management at 501-223-0719

Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,461
No possible way the manatees have any chance of surviving with all the local and cruise ship boat traffic in their breeding and thriving grounds off Belize City. But Coastal Zone efforts will keep them around a bit longer. That's is why the manatee population in Placencia lagoon is so important, but we are destroying that and nearby Harvest Caye, which we gave to Norwegian cruise to irrevocably alter and render uninhabitable for the manatees

Belize based travel specialist
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