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Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildtracks blog


Introducing the Manatees (Jamie introduces Twiggy)

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I'm Jamie and I’ve been volunteering at Wildtracks for almost 3 weeks now, and enjoying every day. I come from Devon, in the south west England, and left school last year. I’m going to study Zoology at university at the beginning of next year and wanted some valuable experience and life memories before starting the course. My plan was to find a volunteer project working with animals. With no specific ideas for what I wanted from a volunteer programme and having done one with turtles before, Wildtracks seemed to be the perfect non-profit project. Wildtracks has a real interest in helping animals in any and every way they can, that’s what I wanted. That’s exactly what it is.

Wildtracks currently has 2 Antillean manatees in its care - Duke and Twiggy. Duke, who is now 2 years old, was rescued as an orphaned calf in Jan 2012. Skinny and malnourished, he was too old to bottle feed when he was rescued. This coupled with a deep cut on his nose, and a digestive system damaged by starvation and possibly cold stress, led to Duke being tube fed since his rescue. It’s this that has saved his life. Although his battle has been long, last Sunday he put on 4 pounds, making him 184 pounds, a big step on his road to recovery.

Twiggy was rescued on the 25th of June 2010, seriously emaciated and weighing only 56lbs. She was estimated to be 1- 2 weeks old and measured in at 1.18m long. After 3 years of care here at Wildtracks, she has been measured and weighed one final time before release. A true success, she now weighs 300lbs and has grown to over 2m in length. Over her time in rehabilitation, Twiggy has been taught to graze on seagrass by the revolving team of volunteers, and is now self-sufficient, on pre-release in the lagoon. I have gained a lot out of working with Twiggy, letting her out in the morning and back in in the evening – the only times she comes into contact with people. She is a sweet and curious manatee, who always seems to be smiling. Her happiness is infectious and never fails to put a smile on my face. She is a very special girl who has meant so very much to a lot of us.

Twiggy is soon to be a truly wild manatee and we are shortly to begin the final stages of her 'soft' release. This will encouraging Twiggy to move further eastwards, towards the channel leading into the sea, and from there towards the manatee resting hole to the south. Monitoring by Wildtracks and the local conservation group – Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) – has shown this to be used by up to twelve manatees at a time, including mother and calf pairs.

A monitoring team will follow and observe Twiggy from a safe distance, aided by the transmissions from her dual VHF and satellite tag. Her daily activity patterns in the lagoon are currently being monitored by computer, using Google Earth, with an accuracy estimated during this pre-release phase to 7 metres. Based on previous releases, she should be interacting with wild manatees and ignoring humans and boats within two to three months. I Look forward to updating everyone on her progress - by the time my next blog goes up, she may well be a fully released manatee!!

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Published by: Zoe Walker at 2013-02-24 08:20:39   [Link to this article]


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