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Jan 30, 1998

Dead manatee found near Belize City

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They are endangered throughout most of their range but in Belize the West Indian Manatee has always thrived. At least until recently. Tonight there is one less in the community and at least one man is getting suspicious.

Pepe Garcia, the President of the Belize Audubon Society, had just taken out his boat for a test run and was cruising near the Hen and Chicken Cayes, when he spotted a gray object floating in the water. Garcia decided to take a closer look and found lying dead on its back was a nine foot long female manatee. The carcass he estimated had been dead for four to seven days, did not appear to have any kind of injuries. While at this time it is not known what may have caused the mammal?s death, Garcia is left wondering whether the creatures demise is connected to what has been killing manatees in Florida.

Pepe Garcia, President, Belize Audubon Society

“I was watching some CNN a couple of weeks ago and I saw that in Florida some of the manatees are dying because of digesting plastic at the bottom of the sea. These plastics when thrown out to the sea, somehow or the other they sink to the bottom and the alga or what we would call morass, would grow around it and if it mix with other plant life when the manatee come and eat they would eat the plastic and everything. So probably what could be happening is these plastics digested and would plug their intestine system and forget it, you know. That would cause him to die.”

Garcia hopes that organizations like the Fisheries Department and Coastal Zone Management Unit will investigate the matter fully.

The manatee carcass remains at the Hen and Chicken Cayes. Nicole Auil, Manatee Specialist with the Coastal Zone Management Project, hopes to arrange for an autopsy over the weekend.

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