CHETUMAL, Q. Roo — The deaths of at least 20 manatees have Quintana Roo ecologists concerned with reports showing all of the deaths were human-related.
The deaths of at least 20 manatees in Belize so far this year are worrying state researchers at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (Ecosur) in Chetumal who say these manatees normally live in Quintana Roo waters.
Janneth Adriana Padilla Saldívar, from the Department of Ecology and Systematics of Aquatic Resources of Ecosur, reported that the causes of death of these marine mammals has been mostly boat motors either killing them or inflicting injuries from which they eventually die.
The big concern, she says, is that these manatees live in the Bay of Chetumal and often move to the waters of the neighboring country.
She explained that there are reports of significant manatee deaths by fellow researchers from Belize due to the extensive boat activities that circulate in the Belize tourist areas. Due to studies by Ecosur, they have verified that Quintana Roo manatees swim to neighboring Belize waters to mingle with other groups of manatees, often staying a month or so in Belize lagoons.
“For many years in Chetumal we have not had manatee deaths due to human causes. The last one was 20 years ago when someone shot one in the head. Although the animal was found alive, it could not be saved,” explained Padilla Saldívar.
Padilla Saldívar said that together with their counterparts in Belize, they’re analyzing the possibility of taking action against the carelessness of motorists by offering proposals to strengthen the care and preservation of the mammals, which are in danger of extinction. She says they are hoping to deliver their proposal to government authorities of both countries.
She pointed out that while this is a collaboration between academic groups, it is necessary to take bilateral measures at higher levels, between government leaders, to seek immediate protection in the waters of both Mexico and Belize.
Researchers from Ecosur in Quintana Roo say there are currently about 300 manatees living in the Bay of Chetumal, with Belize being the most important navigation area for the mammals. In total, they say there are only about 200 left, noting that females have one calf every three years, with a gestation period of between 12 and 14 months.
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