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Jobos Bay Reserve Uses Telemetry to Study Manatee Health

Sep 25, 2017 | Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico

Jobos Bay Reserve staff and partners involved in the Manatee Health Assessment and Radiotelemetry Project. Photo courtesy of the Puerto Rico Manatees Conservation Center.

It has been such a difficult time for our Jobos Bay Reserve. We want to share a story of the good work they have done and that we know they will be prepared to do again.

The Jobos Bay Reserve is home base for the Manatee Health Assessment and Radiotelemetry Project, an innovative initiative to study the manatee population on the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Reserve staff have been collaborating with a wide number of scientists and organizations including the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center, Interamerican University Bayamon, U.S. Geological Survey Sirenia Project, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Georgia Aquarium, University of Florida, Dallas World Aquarium, Dolphin Discovery of Mexico, Omacha Foundation of Colombia, Los Andes University of Colombia, and many veterinarians and volunteers.

Jobos Bay shared their facilities, including new dorms and a laboratory, and the project’s health assessment site was an area close to the boat ramp on the reserve’s Salt Flat Trail. Stewardship Coordinator Milton Muñoz was part of the capture team onboard a new, specially designed, 27-foot boat owned by the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center.

During the first three days of sampling in the waters of Jobos Bay, with the help of a spotting airplane, the capture team was able to identify the areas where the manatees spend the majority of their day. Three captures were attempted during these days but the manatees managed to escape.

Spotting airplane helps boats on the water capture manatees in the study area.
Photo courtesy of the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center.

However, on the fourth day the manatee capture was a success! First an adult female was caught close to the SWMP station in Salinas. The team named her Abey and weighed her in at 897 pounds. A tracking system device was attached to her tail before she was released. The second manatee was a juvenile male caught in the Guayama area of the bay and was named Baracutey. The fifth day of the sampling week brought about the capture of another juvenile male named Bimini. The team collected genetic and skin samples from all manatees, well as other vital health and morphometric data. This will support future assessments of manatee habitats, including the seagrass beds.

The research team monitors the manatee’s vitals and takes skin, genetics, and others samples before releasing it back to the bay. Photo Courtesy of the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center.

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