CLEARWATER, Fla. — Help is on the way to save an injured and orphaned manatee calf found by fishermen off the coast of Cuba last week.
The calf had been seen alone for days by the fishermen, but then they noticed the calf was barely moving and had what looked to be a harpoon injury to its head, last Thursday.
“Poaching, unfortunately, is one of the main causes of death for manatees and subspecies and it’s happening in Cuba,” said Dr. Anmari Alvarez Aleman, the Caribbean Program Director at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
She doesn’t know what happened to the baby’s mom but said poaching could have been to blame.
Alvarez Aleman said it was good the fishermen monitored the baby for a few days because sometimes manatee mothers will leave their babies for a few hours and then come back.
“This is the most important part in this because at the end of the day you don’t want to separate a mother from a calf,” she said.
The fishermen rescued the calf and fed her cow and goat milk along with coconut water for electrolytes until an aquarium in Santiago, Cuba came to pick the calf up. That’s where Alvarez Aleman is headed Saturday.
She’s been working with manatees for 15 years and said a strong partnership with scientists in Cuba allows her to help when needed.
“This is the antibiotic she’s going to need to get rid of the infection she might have,” she said, holding up some of the supplies she plans to bring. “The whole purpose is to give her the care she needs and the treatment based on her condition. That was dehydration, and she was very emaciated.”
The baby, which Alvarez Aleman believes is only two to three months old, will need to be taken care of for a long time.
“Manatees usually stay with their moms for two, two and a half years,” she said.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Research Institute is also working to determine the manatee population in Cuba, strengthen protections for the endangered animal and figure out what genes manatees in Cuba and Florida share.
To learn more about their research, visit mission.cmaquarium.org/research-institute/.