Radio tracking tagged manatees Rita and Georgie off Great Harbour Cay. Pictured from Left to Right: Delano Springer, Dolphin Cay-Atlantis; Kendria Ferguson, BMMRO; Indira Brown, Department of Marine Resources; Russell Morgan, Dolphin Cay-Atlantis; Jim Reid, US Geological Survey. (Image courtesy of USGS).
Nassau, Bahamas - The Department of Marine Resources is pleased to inform that the two (2) manatees that were removed from the Nassau Harbour on 15th October 2011 have been returned to the wild after being under the care of the marine mammal team at Atlantis on Paradise Island.
In November 2009, a manatee was sighted in Spanish Wells harbour, North Eleuthera. Photographs of her distinctive scar patterns were provided to the US Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project where they were matched to “Rita”, an adult female known to be residing in south Florida since 1988.
after arriving in Spanish Wells, marine mammal care staff from Dolphin
Cay (Atlantis Resort) conducted several health assessments of Rita. They
determined through ultrasound that she was pregnant and advised locals
to provide her with food and water to ensure that she remained
well-nourished throughout her pregnancy. In June 2010, she gave birth to
a female calf, who locals named Georgie. Rita and Georgie became very
popular amongst Spanish Wells residents so much so that Rita’s own
Facebook page was launched and now has over 800 friends.
and Georgie continued to frequent Spanish Wells harbour until hurricane
Irene passed over Spanish Wells in August 2011, when they disappeared.
The next sighting of the wayward pair was in Nassau harbour in October.
Due to concern about potential vessel strikes, the Department of Marine
Resources (DMR) authorised Dolphin Cay’s marine mammal response team to
capture the manatees so their health could be evaluated and they could
be maintained until a decision was made about their disposition. On
2011, Rita and Georgie were captured and taken to Dolphin Cay, Atlantis Resort.
their time at Atlantis the manatees have been the recipients of
excellent care, have been closely monitored and undergone several
examinations by veterinarians and other marine mammal experts.
efforts to have the manatees returned to the wild have been spearheaded
by the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO), a local
non-governmental organisation based at Sandy Point, Abaco.
the assistance of manatee researcher Jim Reid at the U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS), the BMMRO prepared a release plan suggesting the
relocation of the two (2) manatees to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry
Islands where a small group of manatees were already in residence, and
the implementation of a programme of tracking and monitoring after
consultation with Atlantis, the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research
Organisation, the USGS and the Save the Manatee Club of Florida, the
Department of Marine Resources approved the release plan that involved
awareness building in the Great Harbour Cay community, transport of the
manatees to Great Harbour Cay, attaching monitoring devices to the
manatees, their release and subsequent monitoring.
preparation for Rita and Georgie’s release, BMMRO has conducted
research at Great Harbour Cay to learn more about the manatees that have
been residing there for the past 13 years. Equally important, BMMRO’s
education officer Kendria Ferguson commenced educational outreach to the
local community, visiting the school to give seminars, and increasing
awareness about manatee presence for boaters.
two (2) manatees have been safely transported, released and are being
monitored as they explore their new surroundings. The public can follow
Rita and Georgie’s adaptation to their new home and new friends on
BMMRO’s manatee blog at HYPERLINK "http://bmmro.blogspot.com/"
part of BMMRO’s outreach work, in collaboration with Loggerhead
Productions and with funding from the Lyford Cay Foundation, there will a
5-minute educational video on manatees in The Bahamas that will be
available later this year.
USGS has pioneered the use of satellite-monitored radio tags to track
the movements and habits of manatees in Florida and internationally.
These tethered floating radio tags obtain precise locations and can be
the past few decades, the number of manatee sightings in The Bahamas
has increased. The origin of some of these individuals has been traced,
through a photo-identification database, to Florida, where manatee
populations are increasing in some parts of the state. One female
manatee named “Gina” has been residing in Great Harbour Cay, Berry
Islands, since 1999. Her history has been traced back to Florida, and
she has reportedly produced 3 offspring. Most of her offspring are
reported to have remained in the area. The expectation is that we will
be seeing more mantees in The Bahamas in the future.
exercise has been a joint effort involving a number of groups, each
providing resources of various kinds to achieve a common goal of
ensuring the safety of the manatees in their natural environment.
monitoring and tracking are still ongoing, it is appropriate at this
time to note that this effort has been one that has involved a number of
different organisations and could not have its current success without
the expenditure of considerable resources, time and expertise of many
persons. The Department of Marine Resources takes this opportunity to
extend sincere thanks to the marine mammal team at Atlantis, the staff
of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, the USGS, the Save
the Manatee Club and to the people of Great Harbour Cay for being so
receptive and those of Spanish Wells who showed great care and concern
for the manatees.
operators in the water around Great Harbour Cay are reminded to reduce
their speed and to be on the lookout for manatees. The public is
reminded that manatees, as all other marine mammals, are protected in
The Bahamas and should be admired from a distance. Manatees in the wild
should not be fed.