BMMSN meets/Woody update - by Dr. Bron Eastwood

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 30            July 27, 2000

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Woody receives one of several daily feedings at WildTracks

On Friday July 14th, the Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network (BMMSN) held its third meeting at the Coastal Zone Management Authority/Institute in Belize City. The BMMSN is a non-profit group dedicated to the study and conservation of marine mammals which provides emergency care for stranded manatees, cetaceans and sea turtles.

    The purpose of the meeting was to update members on this year's strandings, on Hercules and Woody's progress (stranded newborn manatees rescued last year) and other business concerning the progress of the network. Nicole Auil, BMMSN coordinator and Manatee researcher, chaired the meeting. So far this year, there have been ten manatee strandings. All the strandings were found dead and either moderately or badly decomposed, so full post mortem examination was not possible. At this point, Ms. Auil stressed the importance of more widely advertising the 0-800-MANATEE phone number that the public may use to report strandings. A stranding refers to either a dead animal or a live animal that cannot cope and is helpless in its present situation. Of the ten manatee strandings in the first six months of this year in Belize, one was poached, two were confirmed dead from watercraft accidents and the remaining seven were of an undetermined cause.

    Zoe Walker from WildTracks then gave an update on Woody, the neonate (baby manatee) stranding from October of last year. He is now 124 centimeters long and weighs about 130 pounds. He is eating plenty of iceberg lettuce (his favorite food) and drinking between 3,000 and 5,000 milliliters of milk a day! His personality is developing daily with recent vocalization at feeding time (high pitched piping noises) and he is showing curiosity for his newly expanded pen in the lagoon, where he is now permanently kept, exploring his new environment. Even his resting position is beginning to resemble an adult, as he is observed with his body submerged and only two small nostrils breaking the surface. (Young manatees tend to float more horizontally at first with their back exposed.) Ms. Walker also reported that Woody's three flipper abscesses, which were lanced and treated in April by Greg Bossart, the veterinarian from Miami, are now fully healed.

    Next on the agenda, Ms. Auil gave a short report on Hercules, the stranded neonate from April of 1999. He is being rehabilitated in Xcaret, Mexico and is expected to return to Belize for gradual reintroduction to the wild in April 2001, when he is two years old. The location is not confirmed but will probably occur in Southern Lagoon at Gales Point where Andrea Gill tracks and monitors the manatee population. Some discussion about Manatee Week in October followed; plans for fund raising activities will be announced at a later date.

    Following the meeting, Bronwen Eastwood, one of the BMMSN veterinarians, gave a short talk, complete with illustrations and a video, to the members on Necropsy procedure. The idea was to acquaint those not familiar with the system, to a full post mortem examination of a fresh carcass. The BMMSN urges the general public to report dead or stranded marine mammals as quickly as possible so that essential information may be gathered for their research data-base in Florida.

    If you would like more information on the BMMSN or would like to become a member please contact CZMA/I at czmbze@btl.net or phone 02-30719.



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