Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildtracks blog

Putting manatee love into action - contributed by Emily


The day I received the email that my Wildtracks application had been accepted to volunteer at the Manatee Rehabilitation Center was a life-changing day. Manatees are my passion in life, and I knew right away the experience I would have at Wildtracks was something I would never forget. It has gone so far beyond my expectations as I’ve helped care for the amazing manatees, primates, and even an endangered Great Curassow at Widtracks!

My first time seeing Rameses, the eight month old manatee rehabilitating from a boat strike that broke his ribs and punctured his lung, is a moment that I will never forget. He was so full of personality and a true fighter. He was also floating on the surface of the water, covered in algae, unable to dive or even straighten his body to a normal position. It sure didn’t stop him! Early every morning I would join him in his pool, supply him with sea grass and hyacinths, and play games to coax him to eat and move around. His nature was so kind and loving, and we bonded quickly. He would push and grab my leg with his little flippers to hurry me up, and wedge himself between me and his feeding device to eat any scraps I had dropped. Soon, the device he was eating from didn’t hold enough food and we had to devise a new way to give him more. It was so wonderful to see him eating so much - and flaring his floppy lips for more!

I arrived in September 2013 with my husband Todd, and we completed our placement in December 2013. Over that time we have watched Rameses start diving, eating more than ever, and looking very healthy and happy. He has joined Duke in the largest pool at Wildtracks, and they seem to enjoy each other’s company very much. Duke’s personality is very much the opposite of Rameses! He is such a sweetheart, very curious, and much more shy. He takes his time eating, and prefers to be the instigator of interactions with humans or manatees. I feel very lucky to have bonded with such a unique, amazing manatee such as Duke. As a result of possible entanglement and severe emaciation when rescued, he was very thin and finicky about food when he came in. Now he has discovered the wonderful taste of banana leaves and never turns down a water hyacinth. His character is very strong, and I’ll never forget the adorable, grinning smile permanantly planted on his beautiful face.

The most special manatee I have ever worked with is the baby manatee calf Khaleesi. She is the smallest manatee calf Wildtracks has ever rescued and cared for. At only 40lbs, her tiny little nose and flippers surprise me every time I see her. It is hard to choose the right words for how magical it is to swim with her in the natural lagoon pool. The bond I feel with her is very strong, and it is difficult to imagine a day without seeing her tiny little face. Always nuzzling and staying up against me to swim and sleep, she’s truly integrated into my memory for life. The day that she is grown and ready for return to the wild will be bittersweet… but that is exactly what Wildtracks and volunteers like us are striving for - to see the day that all these amazing creatures are once again living wild and free.


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2013-12-24 10:27:10   [Link to this article]

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