Three manatees at the Dominican Republic’s National Aquarium are set to return to the ocean after an extensive rehabilitation process that has lasted years.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, two of the manatees— Juana and Pepe —are eight years old and only lived in the ocean for a few months before being injured by humans. The fact that they only lived in the ocean for a short time will complicate their return to their natural habitat. The third manatee, Lupita, is only three years old but lived in the ocean for a year before being rescued, which will give her a certain advantage when it comes to being released.
So, how do specialists prepare manatees for release after being in captivity for years? Preparation starts with carrying out tests to control their skin and heart rate and showing them how to look for their own food. The three manatees were used to being fed fruits and vegetables at the facility, something that won’t work when they’re on their own given that they tend to look for food on the seafloor.
In order to teach manatees to learn this, the specialists developed a system that uses tubes to put food at the bottom of the pools they currently live in. The specialists told EFE that the manatees have taken “a big step” towards release because they’ve already gotten used to looking for food at the bottom of their pools.
Another step the specialists have taken is banning humans from interacting with the manatees while they prepare them to return to the ocean.
Lastly, the specialists will be placing a track on the manatees to ensure they’re adapting well to life in the ocean.
For those of us at the Optimist Daily, it’s inspiring to know that while humans can be a serious threat to marine life, there also people out there who are dedicated to saving and rehabilitating incredible sea creatures such as the manatee. Now let’s just hope Pepe, Lupita, and Juana thrive after a long hiatus from the ocean.
Image source: Erika Santelices