Nursing manatee killed by boat, a possible orphan calf in need of rescuing

The carcass of a 10.5 feet female Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) was recovered today along the Marine Parade in Belize City. The carcass had large open propellor wounds to the head and upper right shoulder penetrating the ribs, and a fractured skull - which suggests that it had collided with a large boat. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute's team examined the adult female manatee and confirmed that she was nursing. Our team then conducted an external and internal assessment on the carcass and confirmed that she was not pregnant, but instead showed signs of nursing a calf. Our team searched the surrounding area and did not locate the calf. We urge the public, specifically boaters to be on the lookout for a lone manatee calf between the area of Marine Parade and the Drown Cayes. Please report any sightings of a lone calf in this area to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute.

With the expected increase in boating activities during the Easter holiday, we take this opportunity to remind boaters especially the water taxi to exercise caution when boating in manatee areas and shallow seagrass and mangrove habitats, utilize a lookout person on deck and wear polarized sunglasses.

Most importantly, we urge boat operators and passengers to immediately report any collisions with manatees and other marine mammals to the Belize Fisheries Department at 224-4552 or the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute at 615-3838. Have a safe and blessed Easter Holiday.

Tonight, conservationists need your help in looking for a manatee calf - after an adult female was found dead in the waters along Marine Parade in Belize City. It was a 10 and a half foot mature female - who, it turns out, was also a nursing mother.

The mother died from wounds inflicted by the propellor of a passing boat - but now, researchers are desperate to find the calf.

This afternoon, Belize's manatee man spoke to us from California where he is pursuing studies - about the tragic loss of the nursing mother - and the frantic search to find the calf before it also perishes:

Jamal Galves, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute
"The initial assessment has shown that the female had suffered from large chop wounds in the head and shoulder area, penetrating the entire abdominal cavity cracking its skull. So now the concern is that that calf is left out there to fend for itself and without its mother's care, it wouldn't survive more than 2-3 days as these calf are dependent on their mother for survival. So we are pleading to the public, especially boaters that are along the Marine Parade area and the Drown Caye area to be on the lookout. People that are walking, exercising, hanging out should you see this young calf alone, please report it immediately to the Fisheries Department or the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute."

"What behaviours would the calf exhibit at this time?"

Jamal Galves
"Likely it will want be up against something, usually the sea wall, bridges, docks, in quiet places, because a calf is used to be next to its mother, so the sense of being next to something gives it that sense of security. So, if you are out there, it will likely be very small, maybe about 2-3 feet in length, likely come to the surface every minute or so and it nostril will be very small. Usually calf spin around in circles, they look lost. Those are the sort of interaction or reaction I expect to see. But this animal, based on the impact that we see died upon impact and its very concerning to know that someone would have hit a Manatee. There is no way you could hit a Manatee like this and not know, especially right now during the easter time, we know that traffic is going to be heavy, people are going to the cayes and wanting to be on the boat. Right now, the wind in Belize is really high, so these water taxis are sheltering under the Drown Caye area and that's the very same place the Manatees are seeking refuge as well, so they are likely going to come in contact with these Manatees, so we are pleading to these boaters that they stay away from shallow areas, avoid shallow sea grass, avoid mangrove area when they are traversing during this weekend and into the easter holiday."

So, if you see the calf anywhere along the Belize City coast, especially around Marine Parade - you can call 615-3838 for them to check it out. And, boat operators are urged to exercise caution when boating in manatee areas and shallow seagrass habitats, and position a lookout person on deck. Also, they are asked to immediately report any collisions with manatees to the Belize Fisheries Department at 224-4552.

Channel 7