|Rescued manatees living it up at Atlantis|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Oct 20, 2011
Two manatees rescued from Nassau Harbour by marine mammal experts on Saturday, seemed to be settling in quite comfortably at their new home in the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island yesterday.
When The Nassau Guardian visited Paradise Island, 25-year-old, 1,200 pound Rita and her male calf Georgie swam lazily in a deep pool at the resort’s marine quarantine facility as caretakers gave them buckets of lettuce and fresh water from a hose.
And while residents of Spanish Wells, North Eleuthera took to Rita and Georgie’s Facebook page to demand that the popular sea cows be returned to their former home in that island’s harbor, it doesn’t appear they’ll be leaving anytime soon.
Atlantis vice president of Marine Mammal Operations Terry Corbett said that Rita and Georgie will be quarantined for the next few weeks, and after that the pair’s future is uncertain.
“It’s up to the government to decide what the best position and disposition for the mom and calf would be,” said Corbett.
“Either to release them back into waters, find a safe sanctuary for them, or take them back to Florida where the manatee population is, or to keep them here and observe them for a while longer. It’s tough to release manatees in the winter because they do rely on warm water. We’re just doing what they (the Department of Marine Resources) tells us to do.”
Corbett said Atlantis officials have not discussed the possibility of permanently housing Rita and Georgie, who showed up in the harbor last week Tuesday.
The main concern was to get the endangered animals out of the busy harbor, said Corbett. “Mortality rates for manatees (are) mostly due to boat strikes,” she explained.
Direction of Marine Resources Michael Braynen said that the government is considering having the manatees relocated to Florida, releasing them into the sea, or having them remain in captivity.
He said that it would be costly to have them transported to Florida, however, he pointed out that nothing has been decided.
Now, said Corbett, Atlantis’ team of marine experts will focus on making sure they are comfortable, well fed and healthy.
“We’re flying in a manatee specialist – a veterinarian. He gets here on Sunday to do a full health assessment of mom and calf,” she said.
“Every marine mammal is subject to certain viruses that are in the marine environment. So anytime we bring in a stranded marine mammal we have a panel of tests that we run for these viruses to see if (the animals) are carriers, to document if they need further treatment or whatever.”
Corbett said Atlantis has contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the agency overseeing the manatee population in Florida.
“They’re very happy that they’re safe and out of harm’s way,” she said.
There are about 3,300 manatees in Florida.
Rita and Georgie are the only known manatees in The Bahamas.
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