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Nov 13, 2000

Manatee Week opens at Parish Hall

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Belize traditionally has been known as the last remaining paradise for the West Indian Manatee, But a recent series of manatee deaths–both natural and man made–have caused the gentle creatures to become more endangered than ever. That’s why this year’s observance of Manatee Week is more relevant than ever.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Manatee week is about educating the public about the protection of a mammal so meek, it has been dubbed the sea cow.

Nicole Auil, Manatee Researcher, CZMAI

“Manatees are an endangered species, it’s Belize’s only endangered marine mammal. One of the things we look at is preserving biodiversity and preserving endangered species in the biodiversity. We’re doing a species approach type of protection and Coastal Zone also does ecological approaches. Manatees are historic to Belize and Central America and they can help identify crises in the environment, such as if there was poor water quality you would have sea grass being degraded and you would have manatee loss in that area.”

While the displays will help visitors to learn a few things about manatees, the week would not be complete without some mention of Woody, a small manatee calf whose rescue was highly publicized a year ago.

Julianne Robinson, Belize Audubon Society

“When Woody was found there were only a few volunteers who were actually around. He needed to be fed–if I remember correctly–every three hours. He just needed constant twenty-four hour attention and looking after. This was under the Coastal Zone yard for the first few weeks, and then he was taken to the Belize Zoo and then to Sarteneja.”

“Woody was always in the media and used as an awareness tool as well and it seemed perfect timing to have Manatee Week during his birthday.”

While the Audubon and the Coastal Zone Management Authority are working in unison to keep Woody and the rest of his specie alive in Belize, the primary killer of the animal are humans.

Nicole Auil

“In Belize, we find water craft accidents and poaching to be a problem. Poaching really is a big problem, even though we don’t hear about it much.”

Jose Sanchez

“How can people help to increase the manatee population?”

Nicole Auil

“Some basic things would be to learn the laws and identify those people who are doing illegal activities, identify them to the police or the Forestry Department. The Forestry Department has the mandate for protecting manatees under the wildlife protection act.”

The display at Holy Redeemer Parish Hall will be up the entire week.


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