Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildtracks blog

Working with the manatee calves...from Dani, Lead Manatee Carer and Aussie extraordinaire


For someone to ask you to write a blog about your time and role at Wildtracks seems like a ridiculous feat. No amount of words could ever explain the pure joy and satisfaction you feel here on a daily basis, however, I will do my best.

My name is Dani and I volunteer here at Wildtracks, mostly caring for the two male West Indian Manatee calves; Mitch and Lucky. Those who have met me will know that it is almost impossible for me not to cry when i see videos of dugongs and manatees in the wild, so, to be blessed with the opportunity to care for these two boys is one of the greatest endeavours of my life. Getting up at 5.30am is something normally unheard of for me, but knowing that I'm waking up to two hungry little manatees makes all the difference. I wake up each morning happy and excited to see them. It has been an absolute dream to bottle feed these beautiful animals five times a day, and it is worth the late nights, early mornings and zillions of mosquitos.

Some days can be very testing and upsetting when the boys are uncomfortable, cold or gassy which can affect their feeding pattern. When Lucky came in he looked like a rumpled brown plastic bag; beached, emaciated and 95% dead. Mitch was also found stranded and underweight. Both manatees were left without a caring mother whom they would have fed from for up to two years before becoming independent. But acting as a mother, caring for, socializing, and comforting Mitch and Lucky is such a humbling experience for me. Mitch is now a very healthy, happy, handsome manatee and Lucky is looking better every day.

Since I have been here both calves have changed enormously. Lucky would often skip meals or drink half a bottle and would not feed again, he would only come up to certain people during exercise swims preferring the company of the pool wall and he would shiver in water under 28 degrees. He now drinks nearly a litre of milk formula a day and is extremely social after every feed. He comes up to everyone who swims with him, looking very interested in any type of clothing they have on and following them when they swim. Mitch has become more independent since i have been here but is still just like a little puppy, loving to be scratched on the tummy and back and having a nap with each feeder. The bond between them has grown even in this last month and a half, they have started to trick us during transfers between the pools by swimming on top of each other so we can't separate them to lift them out. Sneaky Smartypants!

There have been a fair amount of tears on my end. This trip has been more than I could ever imagine and I have become fiercely protective and passionate about their welfare. I have such a love for these two boys, I'm unsure how I will be able to leave. Luckily, I'll be returning in February 2015!

And I don't think it'll be the last time either.


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-12-06 07:26:21   [Link to this article]

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