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Live baby manatee rescued in southern Gabon

On Friday afternoon a baby manatee (which is referred to as a calf) washed up on the beach at Mayumba, Gabon. This was a very significant event for two reasons: this is the first record of a manatee in the ocean off Gabon (they have been documented in the sea in countries further north, but never Gabon where they are normally found in lagoons and rivers), and also manatees are normally pretty rare in this region. The calf was alone, beaten up (most likely from being tossed in the surf), and covered in barnacles, which tells us it had been in the ocean for at least a couple weeks. The baby is a little male, 117 cm long and weighs 27 kg. It is unknown if his mother lost him or if he might’ve been swept out to sea from one of the lagoon mouths in the area.

The good news is that the staff of Mayumba National Park rescued him and contacted me (unfortunately I’m not there!), and I was able to put them in touch with manatee veterinarians and biologists from other parts of the world who have extensive experience rescuing orphan manatees, particularly in developing countries (these folks are from Puerto Rico, USA and Belize). Mayumba is extremely remote so getting basic supplies there such as the correct baby formula (which needs to be soy based) and calf nipples for a bottle is very difficult. Supplies are being searched for in the capital of Libreville, a 2 day drive away or short flight, assuming the runway is open.

After a night in a bath tub to make sure he was stabilized, the little manatee (being nicknamed “Serendipity”) was moved to a corral in the Banio Lagoon. This is a great location, with fresh water for him to drink and several species of plants that manatees normally eat. Folks there built a corral that gives him plenty of space to move around but is shallow enough for his care givers to work with him.

He is not taking much from the bottle yet and survival rates of orphaned manatees are normally pretty low, but I’m incredibly impressed with the effort of everyone there and the other knowledgible folks offering great advice and encouragement via email. My colleague, veterinarian Ken Cameron, is currently working to travel to Mayumba from the Congo in order to give the manatee a health assessment. My fingers are crossed for the little guy!!

**All photos courtesy of Aimee Sanders & Ricardo Zanre!

1 Comment
  • Snakeman

    September 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm Reply

    Great work Lucy! I am so challenged by this singular find in that locality. I hope your commitment and the efforts of other colleagues will give that little calf a chance to survive.
    Keep of the good work and wish Serendipity a good stay in his little new quarters.

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