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Crusoe, a known male from Florida, shows visible vessel strike wounds in his tail. Photo credit 'Lester Gittens'
The adoption package

Manatee readiness - preparing for reintroduction back to the wild

BMMRO is part of a team preparing for the re-introduction back into the wild of two manatees, Rita and her calf Georgie. Although manatees occurred historically in The Bahamas, apparent absence of natural fresh water sources may have limited population growth here. However, the number of manatee sightings has increased in The Bahamas over the past two decades and some of the individuals have been photo-identified as having originated from Florida, where the population in some regions is now growing. The response to recent sightings has ranged from capturing and returning animals to Florida which is costly, to doing nothing at all, which may put the animal at risk of dehydration. Notably, a young female, "Gina" (known previously from Florida), has been residing in Great Harbour Cay since 1999 and has reportedly produced 3-4 offspring, with most if not all reported to have remained in the area. (Please see the poster presented at the Society of Marine Mammalogy's 19th Biennial conference in Tampa, Florida last November. This poster describes the status of manatees in the Bahamas.)
Some of the members of the manatee group at Great Harbour Cay:

Adult male Gina and her calf JJ Juvenile male

In late November 2009, an adult female manatee known as "Rita" was sighted in Spanish Wells harbour, North Eleuthera. Rita was first documented in February 1988 when she resided in Miami, FL. Periodic sightings through January 2008 revealed she had had at least 7 calves during her 20 years in south Florida and in June 2010, she gave birth to a female calf, Georgie in Eleuthera. Rita and her calf continued to reside in the Spanish Wells area until the passing of hurricane Irene in August when they disappeared.

Fortunately, Rita and Georgie were found in Nassau Harbour in October and were in good health, but there was concern about them being hit by a boat. Because of their slow nature, manatees are often injured and even killed by boat propellers. To limit this risk, the Department of Marine Resources authourised the marine mammal response team from Dolphin Cay to capture and relocate them to their facility, where they have remained since October 2011. Rita and Georgie are both in good health and ready for release back in to the wild. Great Harbour Cay has been selected as the ideal site for their re-introduction because of the existence of others manatees at this location.

Kendria Ferguson, BMMRO's education officer, has been visiting GHC regularly to provide some educational outreach to the community there regarding the upcoming introduction of 2 more manatees to their community. Students at the local school, R. N. Gomez All Age School, were introduced to manatee habitat use, behaviour, and vocalizations. Recently, Miss. Ferguson served as a judge for their annual science fair, where each grade level presented a class science project focusing on protecting the environment.

Each class had their own garden which they were responsible for. The ladies of grade 12 produced a video on the Ozone Layer as part of their presentation.

After considerable effort, the release plan is now finalised. Both animals will be fitted with VHF transmitter/datalogging GPS receiver tags before release, allowing scientists to track them and monitor their adaption to their new home. Once the manatees have been released, there will be a BMMRO Manatee Blog regularly updated by Kendria. Please keep an eye on BMMRO's facebook page, for more details on the launch of the blog!

In an effort to support the follow-up research, BMMRO is selling Rita and Georgie Adoption packages, which include a 5X7 colour photo of Gina and JJ, an Adoption Certificate, and the History of Rita and Georgie. For more information on how you can adopt a manatee please email Thank you for your support!

News archives:
Dec - Beaked whale sounds
Nov - Theses
Oct - Sandy
Sep - manatee video
Aug - whale camp
Jul - manatee weaning
Jun - survey
May - fieldwork
Apr - manatee release
Mar - manatee readiness
Feb - NOAA Video
Jan - Humpbacks

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