Sunday, November 17, 2013
Yesterday Victor was released into Banio Lagoon in southern Gabon, just outside the enclosure where he has been raised for the past 3 years. In the past few weeks, thanks to the supervision and dedicated effort of Jonathan, Victor was able to re-gain some weight and was deemed to be in good enough health to be released. He was fitted with a specially made belt and VHF radio transmitter tag so that he can be tracked locally. Jonathan will remain in the area for a bit longer to track Victor, but he's also trained local Gabonese staff so that they can monitor his progress. Victor's belt is made with special safety features so if it gets entangled and he tugs it, it will break and free him. Additionally, manatee educational outreach programs have been, and will continue to be, conducted in villages around the lagoon to make people aware that it's important to protect manatees, and specifically to notify them that Victor is being monitored. We had originally hoped to release him in a very remote location without any people or villages nearby, but his change in health over the past 6 months precluded us from doing that. We hope he'll join up with some of the other manatees living in Banio Lagoon and learn from them.
In the photo above Victor is taste testing a water lily shortly after he was released, so we hope he'll soon be munching away on the native plants he learned to eating in the enclosure for over a year. We are very hopeful that this little manatee, the first of his species to ever have been successfully raised in captivity, will have a long and wonderful life in the wild!
I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all the different people who were involved with Victor's rescue and care along with me for the past 3 years: Jonathan Perez-Rivera, Ricardo Zanre, Brice Louembet, Davy, Junior and Robby, Dr. Ken Cameron, Rich Parnell, Aimee Sanders, Dr. Tony Mignucci, Dr. Greg Bossart, Caroline Pott, Wynand Viljoen, and Matt Shirley. We are also very grateful for the support of the following organizations: Wildlife Conservation Society, Sea to Shore Alliance, Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center, Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Georgia Aquarium, Columbus Zoo Conservation Fund, Sustainable Forestry Management, Save the Manatee Club, and Green Butterfly Designs.