Guamá, orphaned manatee in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
By Lilibeth Serrano, USFWS, 787-505-4397,Lilibeth_serrano@fws.gov
May 8, 2012
A newborn manatee, three to four days old, was found stranded at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba and transported to Puerto Rico for rehabilitation. Seventeen days later, the baby died.
This is the story of Guama’s rescue, transportation, and rehabilitation, efforts that serve as a testament for the concern and compassion of all the people involved in caring and saving this endangered species.
On May 4, 2012, Military officials found a baby manatee, and immediately called the USFWS to request assistance. The naval officers that found the calf tried unsuccessfully to find the mother and reunite them. They also tried to reunite the baby with other adult manatees nearby, but efforts were fruitless. Soon, the need to conduct rescue and rehabilitation efforts like those carried out before in Florida, Belize and Puerto Rico, became the only viable option for Guamá.
Officials in Guantanamo, the Pentagon, the USFWS, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER) and the Manatee Conservation Center at the Interamerican University in Bayamón Puerto Rico, worked in a hurry to expedite what was needed and provide assistance.
The sirenian left Guantánamo around 4:30 pm and arrived in San Juan at 6:30 pm. Upon its arrival, law enforcement agents from PR DNER transported Guamá to the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center, where the animal was expected to remain for the next year or two, until deemed releasable, and ready to be returned to the wild in Cuba. Caretakers gave the manatee the name Guamá, in honor of the great Indian chief Guamá, who fought against Spanish settles for 10 years under extreme harsh conditions that almost decimated his tribe. Same way this small manatee fought for his own survival and the recovery of his species. Guamá was accompanied in his rehabilitation by Aramaná (from Puerto Rico) and Guacara (from Florida), other two manatees currently at the Center.
Guama lived in the Center for seventeen days. The young calf began showing signs of lethargy on May 18, 2012 and died the following day. A necropsy conducted by veterinarian Antonio Rivera and the Center Director, Antonio Mignucci revealed the calf was suffering from a severe infection. This was unexpected, as the animal had good disposition for feeding, and that weekly blood work did not indicate symptoms for this underlying condition.
The ability to aid other similar creatures in the future is the result of many years of coordination, strengthening the ability to rescue, rehabilitate and release manatees in the Caribbean. The Manatee Conservation Center of the Interamerican University in Puerto Rico is one of two facilities currently authorized by the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office to rescue, rehabilitate and release manatees in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Edwin Muñiz, Field Supervisor for the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, expressed satisfaction, to see that local efforts to strengthen manatee rescue and recovery capacity in Puerto Rico are available for international collaboration throughout the Caribbean basin. Both USFWS and the PR DNER authorize and work with the Puerto Rico Zoo and the Manatee Conservation Center to ensure both facilities meet Commonwealth and Federal requirements for handling and rehabilitating this endangered species. The Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office has provided both technical and financial assistance to these institutions, thus ensuring we reach common goals. The rescue and start of rehabilitation for Guamá is evidence of the dedication and collaboration of many entities and individuals working as one.
To view photos of Guamá, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast/sets/72157629636397030/