Saturday, February 6, 2016

Baby Manatee Rescue

Gina and Sayle in Spanish Wells harbour, Eleuthera before the capture.

On December 29th, researchers from the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) responded to a sighting report of a mother and calf manatees, known as “Gina” and “Sayle”, in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, and discovered that the 5-month old calf had mono-filament fishing line entangled around her right flipper. Despite several attempts, it was impossible to remove the line. Without intervention, Sayle would lose her flipper, and could die if the wound became infected. Since the discovery last month, BMMRO, The Department of Marine Resources and Atlantis’ Animal Rescue Team (all primary members of The Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network) have been working together to attempt to temporarily capture Sayle and her mother Gina to enable Atlantis’ vet, Dr. Eric Anderson, DVM, to remove the line. 


Both manatees on the boat ramp where the capture took place. The capture allowed us to pull Sayle out of the water so the vet could disentangle her flipper.
The rescue operation successfully took place on Monday, February 1st, 2016 in Spanish Wells harbour. The rescue team, including staff from Atlantis, BMMRO and volunteers from Eleuthera, were able to lure the two manatees to a boat ramp where they were encircled by a net. The capture allowed the team to pull Sayle out of the water so the vet could disentangle her flipper. The mono-filament line which was wrapped around her flipper three times, was carefully removed and Sayle was given a full health assessment. Blood samples were collected from both animals to check for possible infection in the calf and assess the general health of the mother. Before the release, a satellite tag was attached to Gina which has allowed BMMRO to track their movements post-release using the satellite data received from the tag.

 The mono-filament line entangled around Sayle’s swollen flipper.
The entire rescue took less than an hour and upon release the mother and calf swam away side by side. Since their release, satellite data shows that they traveled from Spanish Wells to Harbour Island on Monday night, then back around the Devil's Backbone and through Current Cut to Hatchet Bay, where they have remained since. Tag data show that Gina is visiting the same areas she did a year ago when she was previously tagged. BMMRO will continue to monitor their movements and plan to conduct a follow-up assessment of mother and calf before removing the tag in the next few months.


Dr. Eric Anderson, DVM, from Atlantis’ Animal Rescue Team cutting the line from Sayle’s flipper.
Dr Charlotte Dunn, researcher at the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, described the rescue as: “An excellent example of skilled resources available in The Bahamas coming together to help animals in need, and contributing to animal conservation. Thanks to everyone involved for making this a successful rescue.” 

 Sayle was given a full health assessment before the animals were released, including taking a blood sample to check if the entanglement wound had become infected.
The capture team consisted of Dr. Eric Anderson, DVM, Chelsea Roberts, Jonathan Wong, Marvin Johnson, Antoine Taylor, and Cecil Cartwright from the Atlantis Animal Rescue Team; Dr Diane Claridge, Dr Charlotte Dunn and Felice Knowles from BMMRO; and Norma Roberts, Shane Gross, Caine Delacy, Elaine Woodworth, Janine Wilson, Dr Sandra Simms, and Dr Randall Bishop. Jim Reid from the U.S. Geologic Survey for his advice the capture and tagging. Mr and Mrs Keith Smith allowed us to use their boat ramp and dock, Howard Albury, Glen Higgs and Elizabeth Claridge provided use of their boats, Erich reported sightings from the air, Abner Pinder and Stephen Thompson from Bahamas Ferries helped with transport, and the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation for providing funds to allow the rescue to take place. Finally, we wish to thank Mr. Michael Braynen, Director of the Department of Marine Resources, and Indira Brown, Asst. Fisheries Officer, for expediting permission for the capture.

 Map showing the movements of Gina and Sayle after release using the satellite data received from Gina's tag.

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