Status of semi-captive manatees in Jamaica
AbstractThe West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) is one of the most endangered species in Jamaica. Four manatees were impounded at the Alligator Hole River on the south coast of the island since 1981. Their semi-captive status was unclear and the present study reports on the documentation of their gender and survival possibilities. The river was surveyed between 18-25 June 1991 by canoeing and snorkeling, interviews were conducted and photographs and documents were examined to ascertain their status, confirm their gender determination and to assess the circumstances of their capture. A total of 10 sightings were recorded, representing three different animals, all females. They were extremely evasive of humans, as they had been mistreated for long periods of time. Two of the animals appeared healthy, but one was observed with a severe cut in its caudal peduncle, produced by a rope and net. Given Jamaica's low manatee population numbers, and the observed degradation of the river, no justification exists to hold three reproducing female manatees apart from the rest of the Jamaican manatee gene pool. It is recommended that the manatees be captured and released at sea, after fitting them with satellite radio-transmitters, which will allow monitoring their re-adaptation to the wild.
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