Whoa!!! - Saga Of Three Trapped Manatees!
For the past 18 years, three adult female manatees have been living in an enclosed river system known as the Alligator Hole River in Clarendon, Jamaica. They were placed there as a rescue effort by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA). Each was accidentally caught in the nets of fishermen off the Farquhar's Beach in Clarendon. There were initially four manatees; the fourth manatee, also a female, was pregnant at the time she was placed in the river, and she died after giving birth. The offspring also died.
The remaining manatees have almost completely consumed the plants found in the river. Recently they have started adding 'river weed' to their daily diets, at a feeding area. This is a very expensive programme, but if they stop, the manatees will die! Since they have been separated from the already small and diminished manatee population in the Jamaican waters, they have in total missed at least 18 reproductive events. It is approximated that three healthy 'sea cows' could have possibly carried six full term pregnancies over an 18 year period!
Realizing this, a decision has been made to prepare the manatees for release to the wild. This has included the construction of a 'guillotine' style trap/cage where the manatees currently feed. They will be trapped in this cage just prior to their release. The reintroduction of freshwater vegetation and the "sinking" of sea grasses, will help to reacquaint the manatees with eating food from the sea floor. During their capture and release, data will be collected from them, and the animals will be fitted with satellite tags and radio transmitters for post release tracking and monitoring. The monitoring will be done for a two year period, to see if the manatees will rejoin the wild population, and also to see if they will be accepted into a mating herd and eventually breed.
At the time of release, blood, urine, stool and flesh samples will be taken from each manatee, and an ultrasound fat analysis will also be done on each. Each will be measured to get the correct length and girth (distance around the animal); they will also be weighed individually.