Radio Tagged Manatees in The Bahamas

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project is conducting a study to assess manatee movements and habitat use in the northern Bahamas. This work is in cooperation with the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization (BMMRO), Dolphin Cay-Atlantis and the Save the Manatee Club. Special focus will be on the monitoring of the captive manatees Rita and Georgie after their release in the Berry Islands; radio tracking data will provide information on their adaptation, local movements and habitat use patterns, as well as information on other manatees in the region.

Rita is a known adult female from Florida and was first sighted in The Bahamas at Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, in 2009. She is one of several Florida manatees that are believed to have become lost from the nearshore waters of Florida and subsequently documented in The Bahamas. Shortly after her arrival to Spanish Wells, health assessments were conducted by Atlantis’ Dolphin Cay, which determined that she was pregnant, and her calf Georgie was born in June 2010. After living in Spanish Wells for 2 years, Rita and Georgie were spotted in Nassau’s busy harbor, where they were then captured out of concern for potential boat strikes. The two resided at Atlantis while their health was assessed and a release plan developed. They were released at Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands on April 19th, 2012. To learn more, and follow the progress of the monitoring project, visit the ‘Manatee blog’ updated by BMMRO’s field staff: www.bmmro.blogspot.com.

Due to their slow disposition, manatees are at risk of being hit by boats, and strikes from fast moving boats can be lethal. For the health and safety of these animals, it is important to observe No Wake Zones enforced for all harbours in The Bahamas. If you are traveling to the Berry Islands, particularly in the vicinity of Great Harbour Cay, please maintain speeds of 5 mph or less in the harbour and shallow coastal areas. Also, the public is reminded that manatees, as all other marine mammals, are protected in The Bahamas and should be observed from a distance. Additionally, manatees in the wild should not be fed or given water.

Reports from the public help us monitor these wide-ranging animals. Please report sightings of manatees in The Bahamas, especially those with transmitters, by contacting us via the phone numbers or email below. Please provide sighting date/ time, location, tag description and other descriptions of the observations.

For more information, see: http://fl.biology.usgs.gov/Manatees/ bahamas_manatee_release.html www.bmmro.blogspot.com.

U.S. Geological Survey
SIRENIA PROJECT
Southeast Ecological Science Center
2201 N.W. 40th Terrace
Gainesville, Florida 32605
(352) 378-8181
jreid@usgs.gov

Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation
P.O. Box AB-20714
Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas
(242) 366-4155 (office)
(242) 357-6666 (mobile)
kferguson@bahamaswhales.org

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