Saving the World, One Baby Manatee at a Time

Jun 17, 2022

By Aitza Pabón, director of the Jobos Bay Reserve.

After a long day of work, I received a phone call from Santa Isabel. A baby manatee was stranded on the shore of the bay of Jauca, not so far from the Reserve. 

I left immediately and notified personnel from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), which has experts to deal with this type of situation. Once I arrived, I called the biologist Dr. Nilda Jimenez who helped me identify the manatee’s sex, take her on my lap, and calm her down. The manatee had a very fast heartbeat and I monitored her breathing and heart rate until DNER personnel arrived. They transported her to the Puerto Rico Manatee Rehabilitation Center, where Dr. Tony Mignucci gave her a diagnosis. This experience reminded me that my purpose in life is to help protect natural resources.

The baby manatee was  in a delicate health situation and will need two years of milk and expert help to heal. Dr. Mgnucci has informed us that the costs of caring for a baby Manatee is close to $100,000 annually. Dr.  Antonio Mignucci, with the  volunteers at the  center, chose to name her Nanichi, which means “my heart, my love” in the Taino language. Nanichi was rescued on World Planet Earth Day, and her name should remind us that we have a great responsibility to care for, protect, and conserve natural resources and wildlife.

To help Nanichi and the Manatee Conservation Center of Puerto Rico, you can make your financial contribution through AHT Movil Pay a Business at “Centrodemanaties” or PayPal at or contributing directly to the Puerto Rico Manatee Rehabilitation Center.

Aitza posing with the baby manatee, Jobos Bay Staff, and Keysali Rodriguez, the woman who first spotted the manatee.

If you spot a stranded manatee, keep your distance and call for professional help.

NERRA is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Coastal Zone Management Act—the legislation that led to the creation of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

ReservesJobos Bay, Puerto RicoSaving the World, One Baby Manatee at a Time