Young Amazonian manatee returned to wild

FORT PIERCE, FL., March 8, 2002 - A baby manatee that was at one time bottle-fed by Colombian soldiers is back in the Colombian Amazon after almost three years of care and rehabilitation, thanks in part to the efforts of a HARBOR BRANCH scientist and a unique conservation outreach program.

The Amazonian manatee, named Airuwe by his caretakers, was only a few months old when he became tangled in a net and injured near the tiny village of Puerto Narino in the Colombian Amazon in 1998.

Dr. Greg Bossart, Director of the HARBOR BRANCH Division of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation and a world-renown expert on manatees, was invited by several conservation organizations, including the Save The Manatee Club, to travel to the area shortly after Airuwe was caught, to help establish a rehabilitation program with the goal of eventually returning the manatee to the wild.

This is all part of our on-going conservation outreach programs involving the medical care and rehabilitation of manatees that have been established in Guyana, Brazil, Trinidad, Colombia, Belize and Mexico, Dr. Bossart said.

This is one example of how successful these kinds of programs can be not only in rehabilitating these animals but also in helping to establish conservation programs that teach people in other parts of the world how to conserve all their resources for the benefit of their communities and their neighbors, Dr. Bossart added.

The entire community came together to care for Airuwe after he was brought to the Omacha Foundation, which has a dolphin research program but had never cared for a manatee prior to the young manatees arrival.

In addition to the injuries from the net, Airuwe was dehydrated and malnourished, basically starving to death, according to Dr. Bossart.

They had him in a lake, and we had to get him into a smaller, contained pool of water where people could control his movements and take ca

Contact: Geoff Oldfather
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution

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