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Sep 24, 2013

Raising awareness on endangered manatees species during manatee month

The manatee, locally known as the sea cow,  is listed as an endangered species in Belize; it is estimated that the population is between seven hundred and nine hundred.  Over the years, there have been continuous efforts to protect the local manatee habitat from threats by boaters.  In Belize City today, as part of the activities this month to build awareness about the large sea mammal, The Manatee Research Center organized a program for students. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Youths from across the country have been getting a crash course on the manatee and today at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute Office on Princess Margaret Drive; it was Belize City’s turn. Students from various schools in the Old Capital formed cues as they took turns, in different groups, to get a good grasp on the life of the manatees.

 

Jamal Galvez

Jamal Galvez, Manatee Research Associate, CZMAI

“We are trying to get communities and the individuals in the communities involved. Manatees, even though Belize has the highest population of this species, we need this help and for change to happen we need this nation, we need the entire country to know and learn about these things and our intention is once we educate people about manatees, they may see the need for them to protect them. It’s basically to teach these children the manatee habitat, the needs, and what are the threats and what they can do. The simple things such as don’t throw garbage in the water because something as simple as a plastic bag can be serious danger for manatee.”

 

Belize currently has the largest population of the Trichechus manatus or the Antillean manatee. The herbivorous mammal, however, is endangered; the life of the species is being threatened by boaters, polluters as well as mega tourism developments. And according to Manatee Research Associate, Jamal Galvez, he is targeting the youths to try and prevent or even minimize the number of casualties.

 

Jamal Galvez

“We wanted to make it interactive so we put a bunch of videos in there that they can relate to with manatees communicating—talking like human beings and talking about their problems. Like for instance you may say that mommy noh wanna buy me a sneakers because it is expensive. Their problems are boats so they are discussing their problems that oh you can’t hang out in this area because the boats are high in this area. So the videos are basically for them to have a very good vision of what manatee life is—what they do every day, what they see every day; what’s the life down under.”

 

And so we tested the kids to see if they were able to retain the vast amount of information that was presented.  And they were impressive.

 

Lyon Green

Lyon Green, Student

“A next name for manatee is the sea cow and they have to come up every thirty seconds to get air to breathe under water and they can breathe for fifteen minutes under water and then dehn go for more air.”

 

Karina Espat, Student

“I learnt that they have eyelashes and they have fingernails too. And you should really take care of them and try not to hurt them.”

 

Aliyah Azueta

Aliyah Azueta, Student

“I learned that we should protect the manatees and not throw anything in the water.”

 

The activity is being held under the theme, “Celebrate and Protect your manatees, Belize.” Duane Moody for News Five.

 

A poster competition for the primary school and an essay competition for high school are also being done in celebration of manatee month. 

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