In the last couple of years, there’s been regular manatee activity in the Bahamas waters, mainly around Abaco and northern Eleuthera. Familiar names are still around. New manatees have been sighted and recorded. Baby manatees have been born. Everywhere they are found, these gentle creatures bring delight and interest.
I have written about the manatees from time to time – you can find the posts by simply entering the word ‘manatee’ in the search space near the top of the right-hand sidebar. I no longer log each and every sighting or item of news. This is not least because in less than 10 years, the manatees of the Bahamas have stopped being novelties and strange rare creatures and become familiar friends, at least on a local basis. Social media usage has massively increased in the time I have run this blog, from minimal to a daily storm in its different forms. So check for individual posts for up-to-date news of significance, and I’ll try to remember to put the links here.
Felice Leanne Knowles of Bahamas Manatee Club HERE has written a great round-up of the Bahamas manatee history for International Manatee Day. She has included their current whereabouts as at September 2015.
Randy at Sandy Point, Abaco (2015). Note the distinctive notch in his paddle that confirms his ID
“The first official documentation of a manatee sighting in The Bahamas was in 1904. The next report was not until 1975. Since the 90’s manatees have been sighted much more frequently.
GINA was first sighted in The Bahamas in 1998 at the AUTEC base in Andros. Since then, she has made The Bahamas her home and has had four calves. Gina is currently in Spanish Wells with her youngest calf of ~ 2 months. RANDY (~7 years old), her son, is currently in Hope Town, Abaco and her daughter JJ (~3.5 years old) was last seen in February, 2015 in Great Harbour Cay, the Berry Islands. Her eldest calf was lost to a motor craft strike.
Since Gina’s arrival, more manatees have been sighted in The Bahamas as persons and organisations became more aware. RITA was first sighted 2009 in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and was actually pregnant! She gave birth to GEORGIE on June 25th, 2010. Rita was last seen at the AUTEC base in Andros two weeks ago and Georgie was last seen in Casaurina in July 2015. These two ladies have a very interesting story which can be followed on our website: http://www.bahamaswhales.org/news/2012/news_Apr12.html
Georgie, Rita’s daughter, at Cherokee, Abaco
Two large adult males are also inhabiting The Bahamas, KONG and BLACKBEARD. Kong was first sighted by BMMRO in December of 2011, but could have been in The Bahamas before. Kong has been a true Berry Islander and has always been sighted in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. Blackbeard was first sighted in Long Island in 2010. Blackbeard got his name because he has surely traveled the Bahamian waters. He has been to Long, Cat, Eleuthera, and New Providence islands. Since his arrival in New Providence in December 2014, he has already circumnavigated the island twice for sure. He has become very popular down there to the residents and to guests.
There have been sightings of many other manatees, but we have not received enough photographs and information to give the manatees proper identification names and sexes. Currently, we propose that there are ~15 manatees inhabiting The Bahamas, but this number is not set in stone. BMMRO is working hard to monitor and protect the manatee population in The Bahamas and we cannot do it without the help from the public. Please stay encouraged and continue to care for these magnificent marine mammals. We would like to thank everyone who plays a role in protecting our Bahamian beauty, for providing sighting reports, for providing photographs, and for sharing information about manatees.
Checking out the camera! Manatees are gentle and very curious… maybe in both senses
Always remember your manatee manners: “Do not touch, follow, or chase them, do not feed them, and do not give them fresh water to drink”.
Props to Felice, Bahamas Manatee Club and BMMRO
TAKING ON FRESH WATER…
Manatees need fresh water to survive. This is in short supply in the Bahamas, yet manatees are starting to nose around Abaco, Grand Bahama and a few other islands. Being friendly and curious means that they can find water in unexpected ways. Blog follower Sherry Galey took these photos in Freeport, GB on a recent sailing trip around the northern Bahamas. This manatee is a rare sighting there, but has clearly found the harbour area a good place to be…
On the matter of ‘watering’ mantees in harbours (or anywhere), BMMRO advises “Do not touch, follow, or chase them, do not feed them, and do not give them fresh water to drink”. Manatees are adept at finding their own fresh water supplies. Giving manatees water – or food – encourages them to become dependent on humans, less able to survive in the wild or move to new areas of seagrass, even more trusting than their natural curiosity makes them anyway, and more likely to hang around in harbours and areas where they may become casualties of boat strike. This is a major mortality factor where manatees are abundant.
13 MONTHS – THE GESTATION PERIOD OF A MANATEE
GEORGIE THE MANATEE’S NEXT EPIC JOURNEY
The BMMRO reports that “Georgie left GHC on 30 Oct heading south through the Berries and finally returned on Nov 10th – she traveled over 300 nautical miles!” In the past she has made a bit of a habit of losing her tracking device. It seems to be working fine now, and it is picking up Georgie’s travels as she increases her range of exploration. It is less than a year since she became very sick and needed treatment and rehab, so it’s good that she is making the most of the ocean’s opportunities and not hanging around harbours where there are easy pickings of cabbage on offer from fans…
GEORGIE THE MANATEE’S TRAVELS SEPT 2013
BMMRO update Sept 28 after Georgie’s re-release in the Berry Is.
A summary map of Georgie’s locations from last weekend. Georgie made a noteworthy trip to Little Harbour Cay and counterclockwise around GHC. Total distance was at least 80km over a 4 day period.
GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: IS SHE RELATED TO AN ELEPHANT?
Georgie, having returned to Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy, is still around there and seems to have made it her home. While she was missing, it was thought she had headed off instinctively for the protection of the mangroves. However a number of sighting reports made since Sandy suggest that she had sensibly swum up the canal at Casuarina, where she was able to keep her head down until the storm had safely cleared northwards, and she was able to return to base. Because she had shed her tag, we’ll never know the full story…
Georgie safely back at Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy
Recently an interesting article by BEACH CHAIR SCIENTIST considered the relationship between sirenians and pachyderms, and added some handy comparative facts (you can seen more manatee facts on this blog HERE). Thanks, BCS, for use permission (the relevant credits are contained in the article).
“MANATEE MANIA IN THE ABACOS” – BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER
The BMMRO has just published the Fall 2012 newsletter, and it’s no surprise to find that the front page news is the arrival of young manatee Georgie on Abaco. After nosing and indeed grazing her way around Abaco and the Cays, she still appears to be contentedly moored in Cherokee after the best part of a month. Here’s the official map of her wanderings
Besides the manatee there’s plenty more to read and look at including
- Charlotte Dunn’s ‘President’s Update’
- Articles on whales, and a friendly bottlenose dolphin’s visit to Hope Town
- Fall ‘cetacean sightings’ map
- Students at ‘Whale Camp’
- A quiz to make sure you have taken it all in…
To read the four-page document – and admire the photos – CLICK BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER
ABACO’S VISITING MANATEE, GEORGIE, HEADS FOR HOPE TOWN
A short time ago I wondered (in print) when a manatee would next be seen in Abaco waters – the nearest candidates being the small Berry Is. population. The answer was quick. Now! Georgie – the recently weaned calf of Rita – had swum across from the Berrys to Abaco, explored the Marls, headed north to Little Abaco, then travelled south on the eastern side of Abaco. She was spotted at Green Turtle Cay, but it had become clear that her satellite tag was malfunctioning, so locating Georgie and monitoring her progress depended on reported sightings.
The BMMRO reported yesterday “Georgie the manatee was sighted at the Sailing Club dock in Hope Town Harbour just after 2pm today! We’d appreciate any further sighting reports as to her whereabouts! Please drive carefully in and around Hope Town Harbour.” Hope Town resident Stafford Patterson was able to get 2 fine photos of Georgie. I contacted him about using them, and he has replied “Permission granted!! And we were happy to host Georgie yesterday.” So here is Abaco’s sole resident manatee (as far as I am aware) enjoying her visit to Elbow Cay.
A team was able to fit a new satellite tag to Georgie (see below), so following her adventures will now be much easier. But where will she go next? What this space or, better still, check out the BMMRO FACEBOOK page
STOP PRESS I’ve been wondering about the distance Georgie has travelled (remembering always that she was weaned only recently). So with the the help of an online map measuring thingy (Free! Cool!), here’s a calculation based loosely on more assumptions than you will find on ASSUMPTION ISLAND. For a start, I don’t know where in the Berry Is. Georgie officially set off from; nor where she was seen on the Marls; nor how she negotiated Little Abaco and the Cays along the east coast of Abaco; nor how many times she circled round exploring as she went. However, taking the ‘as the manatee swims’ direct line approach and assuming no significant deviations, the gizmo reckons the journey was a minimum of 150 miles. With any luck the recovered defective tag will have recorded her exact route, and amply demonstrate that I have wasted 1/2 an hour on this. Still, I wanted to know…
And for anyone wondering about Assumption Island, it does indeed exist, located in the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar. And the spooky thing is… it is shaped remarkably like a manatee! Well, quite like one, anyway.
Assumption Island (geographically correct) Assumption Island (manatee rotation) Awww…Cute!!!
MANATEES: CONSERVATION, AWARENESS PROGRAMS & DISTRIBUTION MAP
The “SAVE THE MANATEE CLUB” is a very active organisation that I have mentioned in previous manatee posts. These gentle creatures are in need of protection, and much effective conservation work is in progress. The BMMRO‘s wonderful work for the MANATEES OF THE BERRY ISLES is featured in this blog because of the proximity to Abaco (might those manatees visit one day?) – and of course because BMMRO HQ is at Sandy Point.
[ADDED 25 SEPT]…and lo, just as I pressed the ‘publish’ button, the BMMRO posted this news:
Georgie is currently exploring the Abacos. Help us monitor her movement patterns by reporting sightings!!
“Earlier this year we tagged & released 2 West Indian manatees in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. These were the same manatees from Spanish Wells that were captured after they swam to Nassau when hurricane Irene passed in late August 2011. After release at Great Harbour Cay in May 2012, they explored most of the Berry Islands but centered their use around Great Harbour. In September one of these manatees, a young female named Georgie, swam from the Berrys to Abaco, has traveled within The Marls, north towards Little Abaco & is now traveling south on the eastern side of Abaco. We received a sighting of her on 23 September at the Green Turtle Cay Ferry landing, just north of Treasure Cay. We anticipate she will continue to travel south and may venture into marinas and harbours along the way. We would like to make the public aware of her presence in the area. Although we believe she is in good health and is exploring new areas, the tag is not functioning properly now so sightings from the public will help us locate and monitor her progress. If possible, please share with anyone in the Abaco area or make an announcement encouraging people that see her to report any sightings”
[ORIGINAL POST CONTINUES] The SMC is a Florida-based organisation and it recently posted a new cheerful cover picture by Natalie Prayor on its FACEBOOK PAGE. I have recently noticed some searches on the blog such as ‘Manatees facts for Kids’, so this post might be helpful. You could even (I can’t believe I even thought of checking this out!) knit one… Want a pattern? Click HERE In fact, I might even…
To see more of Natalie’s artwork, just search ‘Natalie Prayor in Facebook. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The SMC also posts Manatee facts and advice, from which I have selected the examples shown below
This map shows the world distribution of the 4 extant sirenian branches as well as the extinct STELLER’S SEA COW of the north Pacific. It is a melancholy fact that by 1768, a mere 27 years after its discovery by Europeans, this slow-moving, tame and easily-captured sea cow was hunted to extinction. 250 years on, the world’s sirenian population remains vulnerable and, as with whales and dolphins, in need of active monitoring and protection measures
Finally, I liked this manatee cartoon from Rachel Arnow, with its incongruous and enjoyably unfeasible suggestion of manatees in Loch Ness. Rachel has a great sirenian-centric website http://mvsm.omnomzom.com/ featuring her excellent and charming cartoon series “MAN VERSUS MANATEE”.
The latest BMMRO quarterly newsletter has just been published – highly recommended for anyone with an interest in active whale / dolphin research, or in the latest news of the manatees of Berry Is. To see it CLICK===>>> BMMRO NEWSLETTER JULY 2012
RITA & GEORGIE’S BIG ADVENTURE
It’s Week 4 since mother and calf were released. Since then, they have made some manatee friends and gradually increased their range of exploration as their confidence continues to grow. The week’s big news is that in five days, Rita and Georgie travelled over 70 miles around Great Harbour Cay, extending their interest further south than ever before. Here are the other mother and calf pair from the area, Gina & JJ
The logo at the top is clickable straight through to the excellent BMMRO weekly reports of the lives of these gentle creatures, where you will find all the details of their progress. I have also add a click-thru’ logo near the top of the sidebar so that manatee-watchers can go straight there from this blog at any time.
So may I encourage all you nice followers out there to keep an eye on the developing story; and remind you in a subtle – oh, ok then, rather direct way – that this kind of vital conservation research in our oceans can only be carried out with support. That could include direct support for the BMMRO’s work… and / or maybe even adopting a manatee (details on the Manatee blog)
Rita and Georgie Tracking Map Week 4
WEST INDIAN MANATEES IN THE BAHAMAS
The appearance of a mother and calf manatee off the Berry Islands in December 2011 – see BMMRO SIGHTINGS post – led me to investigate these creatures a bit more. I added some more info and a couple of photos to that post, but really they deserve a post in their own right. So, with a wave of a flipper in the direction of Wiki and other open sources, here’s some more about these most strange-looking mammals, just in case you ever happen to come across one…
I will expand the post when I have read the latest “What Manatee?”, “Total Manatee” and “Manatee Monthly” magazines
MANATEES Trichechidae “Large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals. There are three accepted living species of Trichechidae, representing three of the four living species in the order Sirenia. The name manatí comes from the Taíno, a pre-Columbian people of the Caribbean, meaning breast”
10 MEMORABLE MORSELS OF MANATEE MINUTIAE
The 4 species of Sirenia are the West Indian, Amazonian and West African manatee; and the Asian / Pacific dugong. Fossil remains of Florida manatees date back 45 million years; their closest living relative is the elephant
Manatees are also known as Sea Cows. Some say sailors who’d been at sea for too long took them to be mermaids, a mistake I doubt they made twice…
They can weigh up to 1,300 lb and measure up to 13 feet. Females are larger than males. Baby manatees may weigh 65 lb. Adult intestines can reach 45 meters which would take Usain Bolt 4.31 seconds to run past (if straightened out, obviously)
Accurate population estimates seem to be impossible to obtain, varying by season and by year for no apparent reason. Overall, the picture is of a declining population, with extinction likely without further protection (see below for the THREATS to the species)
West Indian Manatees can move freely between extremes of salinity, and may be found in warm shallow coastal waters, in estuaries, or migrated into rivers to freshwater springs (as in Florida). They cannot survive below 15°C (60°F). They have a propensity to hang around the warm-water outflows of power stations
Manatees have some intelligence and demonstrate discrimination and task-learning similar to dolphins.Their eyelids close “in a circular manner”, though I can’t quite picture this. They have only 6 teeth in each jaw, which are replaced throughout their lives
They breed every other year. Gestation lasts 12 months, and it takes a further 12 to 18 months to wean the calf. A single calf is born. Apart from mothers with a calf or males showing off to females, manatees tend to be solitary creatures
They are herbivores, eating many plant species, such as mangrove leaves, turtle grass, and types of algae. An adult manatee can eat up to 10% of its body weight per day. They have been known to eat small amounts of fish from nets
Half a manatee’s day is spent sleeping in the water. The rest of the time they graze in shallow waters. They swim at 3 to 5 mph, faster in short bursts. They may live up to 60 years (surprisingly, given their punishing daily schedule)
The oldest manatee in captivity is Snooty, at the South Florida Museum. He was born at the Miami Seaquarium on July 21, 1948 and came to the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Florida in 1949
PREDATION, THREATS AND CONSERVATION – A SUMMARY The manatee is yet another creature whose worst enemy is mankind. The generalisations below apply to the West Indian manatee – elsewhere there may be different problems
Natural predators Manatees have few natural predators except, occasionally, sharks and crocodiles. Predation is not a significant survival threat. The main causes of death are human-related, such as habitat destruction and human marine objects; and natural causes such as low water temperature and disease
Hunting Historically, manatees were hunted for meat. They were easy to tempt to a canoe and then stun with a pole. Manatee hides were used – and traded – for canoes and shoes; their bones were used for ‘medicine’. Museums used to pay for hides or bones. Hunting was banned in 1893, though some poaching still occurs
Ship-strike Manatees move slowly and are curious… Coastal development has led to many violent collisions with propeller-driven boats and ships, causing maiming, disfigurement, and death. Manatees are cut in half by large vessels like ships and tugs. Many others have propeller scars and they can often be identified by their scar patterns – some bear 50 scars and disfigurements from vessel strikes. Breeding ability may be affected. Infected injuries can prove fatal. Internal injuries also come from being trapped between hulls and docks. Studies of the attrition rate from “boat mortality” alone is causing much concern for the survival of the species. In 2009, of 429 Florida manatees recorded dead, 97 (23%) were killed by commercial and recreational vessels
Red tide Another cause of manatee deaths is “red tide”, blooms of the microscopic marine algae Karenia Brevis. This produces toxins that affect the central nervous systems of sea creatures. In 1996 an outbreak off the Florida coast killed 151 manatees
Other threats (1) Fishing gear: hooks, metal weights, and especially mono-filament line clogging a manatee’s digestive system; entanglement in fishing lines (2) water-control structures such as navigation locks and floodgates (3) drowning in pipes and culverts (4) bizarrely, there have been numerous reports people, when allowed to swim with manatees in Florida, harassing them
CONSERVATION All three species of manatee are listed by the World Conservation Union as vulnerable to extinction. It is illegal under US federal and Florida law to injure or harm a manatee. They are classified as endangered by both the US state and the federal governments. Some vessels are now adapted to help prevent harm to manatees where they operate
For news of forthcoming BMMRO research into the apparent recovery in the population of manatees in the Bahamas CLICK HERE
Finally, here’s the link to a website that contains more manatee information and images. You can join, adopt a manatee, donate or buy stuff. Who wouldn’t want a T-shirt – or a ‘ManaT-shirt’, even – adorned with a picture of the lady above? CLICK LINK===>>> SAVE THE MANATEE CLUB