Info: manatee continues North (NY)

Michael Williamson (whe_william@flo.org)
Mon, 1 Sep 1995 20:21:06

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Date: Fri, 01 Sep 1995 20:25:08 -0400 (EDT)
From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info: manatee continues North (NY)
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From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET"  1-SEP-1995 13:37:46.16
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Subj:	Manatee breaks records by trip
 
Date:         Fri, 1 Sep 1995 10:18:29 PDT
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
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Sender:       Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
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From:         r.mallon1@genie.geis.com
Subject:      Manatee breaks records by trip
To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
 
----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Manatee breaks records by trip up coast
 
    By Carol Vinzant
     NEW YORK (Reuter) - He glided silently underwater past the
Statue of Liberty and Coney Island and headed north to Rhode
Island, where cold waters could threaten his life.
     Chessie, who has gone where no manatee ever went before,  is
one daring sea cow and has won the admiration of scientists who
have been tracking his every twist and turn. Weighing in at
1,250 pounds and as long as a row boat, Chessie also has animal
protection services worried that he may have to be airlifted
home to Florida unless he starts backtracking.
     Manatees are an endangered species and normally live in
Florida, rarely venturing north of Georgia, but Chessie has
travelled up the intercoastal waterway -- a series of rivers,
canals and bays along the Atlantic coast.
     "Chessie is just a traveling man," said Linda Taylor of
the Chesapeake Bay field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, where Chessie was first spotted last year. Wildlife
officials grew alarmed when Chessie, oblivious to an autumn
chill that threatened his life, did not swim home, and they
airlifted him back south in a Coast Guard airplane.
     But this weekend, back again, he swam as far north as Point
Judith, Rhode Isand at the western edge of Narragansett Bay and
then doubled back 35 miles, said Jim Reid of the National
Biological Service. Chessie has backtracked before so the next
few days will tell if he is returning home or just resting, Reid
said.
     Scientists hope the cold waters will persuade him to go home
on his own this time, but they are ready for another airlift if
needed. Chessie was in waters with temperatures below 70
recently and Reid said manatees cannot survive for extended
times in temperatures below 65).
     Chessie's entire journey this year is being tracked by
satellite by means of a tag tied to his tail last year. The
transmitter, designed to fall off if it gets entangled,
attracted the attention of two boys in Connecticut last week.
Fearing the device would snare the walrus-like creature, they
helped lead him out of the docking area.
     "He's had a good trip," said Taylor, noting that the
wanderer has visited Ocean City in Maryland, Atlantic City in
New Jersey and such famed New York tourist attractions as the
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Coney Island.
     Sightings of the manatee are catch-as-catch-can because
wildlife officials do not disclose his exact location, fearing
it would attract harassment. But that has not stopped towns
along the way from announcing Chessie's arrival with glee.
      "It's really been fascinating how welcome he's been and
how respectful people are," Taylor said.
     Although manatees like people -- some come to docks to drink
water from hoses -- the gentle vegetarians are boat-shy.
     Destruction of feeding grounds, locks and boat propellers
pose the greatest risks to the endangered creatures, scientists
say. So many manatees have propeller scars on their backs that
researchers use the marks to identify them.
     Scientists are not sure how many manatees existed at their
peak but estimate about 2,000 are left, said Cathy Beck of the
Biological Service's Sirenia Project, which has cataloged about
1,000 scarred manatees.
     "Very often there are a half dozen scars or more and the
tail is mutilated," Beck said. "Chessie has a very little gray
scar on his back. I don't know how he traveled so far and got
marked so little. He's a very wise animal."
     Chessie probably learned where to swim from his mother,
researchers say, so he may have been swimming the same route for
many of his 30 to 50 years. That might explain reports of a Loch
Ness monster in Chesapeake Bay, said Patricia Fisher of the
Wildlife Service.
     Manatees were sited in Chesapeake Bay until the 1700s, Reid
said, but were probably discouraged by poor water quality. Reid
credits wildlife reserves and the Clean Water Act with providing
Chessie with places to stop, rest and eat along his journey.
Until the 1940s, manatees were still poached and eaten, despite
being protected, Reid said.
     Varieties of manatees are found in the Caribbean, the Amazon
River and West Africa, but in the United States they live in the
wild only in Florida. A species that could withstand the cold
lived near Alaska at one time but was hunted to extinction in
the 1800s.