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Feb 27, 2006

Pregnant manatee washes up dead in Buttonwood Bay

Story PictureIn recent years, there have been several manatee deaths along the Belize City coastline, but this afternoon I visited the scene of what experts say is one of the strangest … and saddest … marine causalities in recent memory.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
This has been the pitiful sight along the shore in Buttonwood Bay for the past two days … a badly decomposing female manatee, its dead calf protruding from its uterus.

The first calls of a manatee in trouble came in on Saturday, but early Sunday morning, this carcass washed ashore.

Nicole Auil, Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network
“Well, this is the first time I have seen anything like this, but I would admit that we have not opened up all the females that we?ve gotten that have been really big. This we think it?s probably the animal wasn?t giving birth at the time; we think it?s probably decomposition that has forced the foetus. The foetus is not a foetus that would have been ready to be born; at least maybe for another few weeks maybe. But what is interesting is that it was just extruding from the mother.?

?We?re taking the calf back to Gales Point where we?re going to bury it to keep the bones and the mother is going to be buried somewhere else here in Belize City. It?s a little bit too big to take back to Gales Point in our boat.?

This finding makes three strandings in Buttonwood Bay in the last year. While the autopsy might reveal that a complication in its pregnancy caused the animal?s death, officials say increased boat traffic in the manatee?s habitat might also be to blame.

Nicole Auil
“We won?t know then until we finish the investigation. But we?ll ask boaters to just keep an eye out for manatees and remember that there are lot of shallow areas, sea grass beds where manatees are that we need to be careful. We?re going to be establishing boat speed signs around Belize City and Southern Lagoon and Corozal Bay within the next few months.?

Stacey Tewes, Coastal Zone Management Authority
“If anybody notices a manatee that has either been injured, or dead, or is wandering in a residential area, please contact Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute at 223-5739.?

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