Lookout for the Manatees

Press Release
Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute
August 6th, 1999

Manatees in Belize die from various causes. but a manatee's greatest threat is humans, as we destroy their natural habitat, poach them for food and run them over with our boats and barges.

Recently, there has been an average of one manatee death per week for the last rive weeks. The cause of death for at least two of these animals has been due to watercraft collision. These deaths are not only from a propeller, but also from the boat's hull.

In a related story, a newborn male manatee calf was found dead 4 1/2 miles up the Belize River, Wednesday, August 41h, 1999.

Nicole Auil, Manatee Researcher of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMA/I), Dr. Bronwen Eastwood and other members of the Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network performed a Inecropsy on the manatee earlier that day; however, the cause of death was undetermined.

According to Auil, as there were no wounds or damage to the body associated with a boat's propeller, the necropsy team believes that the calf may have been still born or may have died from other natural causes.

Last month mating herds, which can consist of as many as 20 manatees. were in several areas off the coast. This makes them more vulnerable to watercraft accidents as they are in larger numbers and focused on mating rather than external events.

As we become more involved in actively preventing the manatees' demise, we have to make certain changes in habits that may contribute to decreasing the manatee population. All boat drivers are asked to be very cautious when driving in the Belize River, around the cayes near the city and along the coast of the city. Boaters are also asked to be cautious around the Drowned Cayes area to Riders Cayes, and anywhere there are shallow sea grass beds, as many manatees have been sighted in these areas.

Please report any collisions or any marine mammal stranding to 0-800-MANATEE (Toll Free) or 02-30719.

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