Belize Antillean Manatees In Peril


Rescued Antillian Manatee near Ladyville in Belize being measured before being transported for medical care at manatee sanctuary in northern Belize. Note white line on back which is wound from being run over by boat.

Belize is home to the world’s largest concentration of the endangered Antillean Manatee but this gentle marine mammal is coming under increasing threat from boaters and tourist-related activities.  Incidents where these sea creatures are run over, maimed or killed by boats are on the rise reports from Belize today say.

A report issued today by the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority Entitled Manatees In Peril In Ladyville Belize says:

On August 15, a large manatee was reported in a canal at Vista del Mar, described as being entangled in a net. The Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network response team, led by Jamal Galves and Nicole Auil Gomez, located the animal and determined that the long white line across the manatee’s back was not a net, but a large boat engine wound.

The manatee was monitored for a week. The mammal was rescued by the team on August 24th as she appeared thin and the canal’s vegetation deemed unsuitable. Coastal Zone Management Authority & Institute staff and many volunteers, including BATSUB soldiers, successfully lifted the 10-foot female using Sea to Shore Alliance’s specialized capture boat and gear. She was examined by Dr. Jane Crawford of Animal Medical Center who determined it had a lung infection likely caused from a possible fractured rib – a result of the boat strike.

The Belize Coast Guard generously provided a truck and transported the manatee to the Manatee Rehabilitation Centre in Sarteneja, Corozal. There it will receive around-the-clock care from Wildtracks and many volunteers.

A second manatee was unintentionally caught with the injured female, but fortunately so as it had a serious fishing line entanglement in its flipper, which could have led to eventual amputation. The line was removed in over an hour, and she was returned to the wild and expected to heal naturally.

The Rehab Center also provides care to “Duke”, the juvenile male rescued in Belize City in January. A third manatee, “Twiggy” rescued three years ago, is being prepared for release into the wild. Donations are needed to help feed and care for the two manatees in rehabilitation. Boaters are asked to watch for manatees in shallow areas – use slow speed in and around the Belize River.

An aerial survey of Belize’s coastline conducted a month ago has confirmed that Belize’s manatee population is on the increase.
A total of 507 manatees were sighted; 10% of them were calves. According to a release from the Coastal Zone Management Authority & Institute, “this is the highest count recorded for Belize, still known globally to have the greatest number of the endangered Antillean manatee. The Southern Lagoon at Gales Point had an 52 Antillean manatees.

A press report carried on one of the local TV stations says that “An aerial survey was also conducted for dolphins and whales in mid April. They searched an area between 17 and 50 miles from the coast, looking for rough-tooth dolphins, killer whales, pilot whales, and sperm whales which have been sighted in Belize’s waters. The observers made two rare sightings of sperm whale sightings at the southern end of the barrier reef, swimming southward towards Honduras.”