Manatees return to Guadeloupe after more than a century

Two West Indian manatees will return to Guadeloupe National Park. This is the first time the species will be reintroduced in the area.

Manatees are calm marine mammals belonging to the same family of the elephants that weigh about 600 kg (female individuals can weigh as much as 1,500 kg) and can exceed three metres in length. People living in Guadeloupe haven’t seen the funny and rounded snout of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) for more than one hundred years. But their relationship can soon be reestablished.

West Indian manatees lack a layer of body fat that can protect them from cold, that’s why they need to live in shallow water higher than 20 degrees.

The first reintroduction of manatees

A new project of reintroduction of West Indian manatees in Guadeloupe, the first of its kind, has been launched by Guadeloupe National Park.

The reasons of their disappearance

At the beginning of the XXI century manatees have literally been wiped out from the waters of the French Antilles and Guadeloupe by savage and intensive hunting. Today, this subspecies of manatees, living in the coastal areas of the Caribbean, is in decline and is listed as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List. Manatees’ mortality is mostly attributable to watercraft collisions, fishing nets, habitat loss and water pollution. Increasing tourism activities in the areas where manatees live also contribute to cause distress to these timid and solitary creatures.

Guadeloupe manatees
After more than a century, manatees will return to the warm waters of Guadeloupe.

Now it’s time to reintroduce Kai and Junior

Kai and Junior, two male specimens of manatee, have now a great responsibility. They will be the first two manatees to be reintroduced in Guadeloupe in order to give a new opportunity to their species. The animals come from the River Safari zoo in Singapore, the former was born on 8 October 2009, the latter on 2 February 2010. According to the zookeepers they’re inseparable. Kai and Junior will be released into the Grand Cul-de-sac Marin Nature Reserve, a protected area where marine traffic will be banned exactly to protect manatees.

swimming manatee
Due to their diet low in nutrients manatees spend up to 8 hours a day eating marine plants growing on the ocean floor.

Manatees return to their ancient habitat

The project aims to reintroduce other thirteen manatees that, along with Kai and Junior, will be the founding members of a new colony of manatees. The mammals will come from different zoos and will be introduced in their new (but at the same time ancient) habitat under the supervision of veterinarians at Guadeloupe National Park and River Safari zoo.

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