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Working 24/7 to save baby manatee orphaned in Colombia

Tasajerito the manatee got lost and orphaned in a Colombian swamp last September

Tasajerito the manatee was found lost and orphaned in a Colombian swamp last September.

Last September, Tasajerito the manatee was found lost in a Colombian swamp, just three days old and separated from its mother.

Nine months later, the baby manatee weighs as much as an adult female and is bottle-fed around the clock from dedicated aquarium staff.

Though it’s much stronger now, Tasajerito’s prognosis is still in question, said Angela Davila, a veterinarian at the Rodadero Aquarium in northern Colombia’s Santa Marta, near where he was found.

“Tasajerito is still considered critical,” Davila told AFP. “He seems strong, he seems lively and eats well, but things can change in the blink of an eye.”

Tasajerito was rescued by fishermen and brought to the aquarium with little hope of survival.

A search for his mother proved fruitless.

Now nestled safely in a special pool by the aquarium, he’s clung to life – his consumption of a special vitamin-fortified milk formula sixfold in a matter of months.

Today, Tasajerito measures over 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall and weighs 53 kilograms (117 pounds).

Yet he’s still “a newborn baby,” says marine biologist Julieth Prieto of Rodadero, who noted that manatees are raised by their mothers for five years and suckle for half that time.

“This makes the rehabilitation process… a challenge because we have to meet the needs that the mother usually provides,” she said.

Nine months later, Tasajerito measures over 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall and weighs 53 kilograms (117 pounds)

Nine months later, Tasajerito measures over 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall and weighs 53 kilograms (117 pounds).

‘Vulnerable’ species

Tasajerito’s human foster parents also teach him to float, dive and swim.

To be released into the wild one day – hopefully in about two years’ time – he needs to grow between three and four meters in length and weigh about 600 kg.

The American manatee species (Trichechus manatus), to which Tasajerito belongs, is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as “vulnerable” to extinction, and its population of about 10,000 individuals is declining.

The fate of Tasajerito is still on the line

Tasajerito’s fate still hangs in the balance.

Threats include residential and commercial development, aquaculture and shipping lanes, with watercraft strikes responsible for a large number of deaths, the IUCN said.

In Colombia, human hunting is a major threat, as are hippos – a strange species introduced by drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, who imported some as pets in the 1980s.

Tasajerito's formula consumption has increased sixfold in a few months

The consumption of Tasajerito’s formulas has increased sixfold in a few months.

The hippos now number more than 100 and compete for food and space with manatees.

The manatee is one of the world’s largest aquatic mammals and, according to Prieto, performs “irreplaceable ecological functions” in its population stretching from Brazil’s eastern coast to the southeastern United States.

Seasonal migrants, they help keep rivers and water channels clean and devour as much as 50 kg of aquatic plants every day.

“If this species were to become extinct, we would have to dredge to restore water flow between rivers, swamps and the sea,” Prieto said.

Florida manatee feeding program to relax as temperatures warm

© 2022 AFP

Quote: Working 24/7 to save orphans in Colombia (2022, June 15) retrieved June 15, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-baby-manatee-orphaned-colombia.html

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