A two-week old male manatee has been rescued off the shore of West Bay.
The Antillian manatee, which is not native to Cayman, was first spotted on Tuesday and later rescued late Wednesday afternoon.
The marine mammal has been named 4B after the initials of the four men who spotted and rescued him – Mark Bothwell, Barry Bush, Brett Burell and Craig Burke.
Janice Blumenthal, research officer for the department of environment, said they are unsure exactly how 4B came to be lost.
‘As he is so young we think his mother became lost in a storm and gave birth to 4B in Cayman. It is most likely that his mother came from Cuba. We are not sure how he has become separated from his mum but we are urging everyone to be vigilant and let us know if they spot her.’
Antillian manatees are native to Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rica. Although manatees can tolerate salt water and are found in saltwater bays and coastal areas, Ms Blumenthal said they are predominantly fresh water mammals and are often found in the openings of rivers and estuaries where they feed on submerged vegetation.
Young manatees nurse from their mothers for two years following birth and will often stay in family groups.
‘To see such a young manatee on its own is very rare. He was very weak when he was first spotted and swam up to the rescuer’s boat, which is a likely sign of distress,’ Ms Blumenthal said.
‘4B was easy to catch as he was so weak. Normally you would need a net,’ she added.
4B, who weighs 53 pounds, is being looked after by the department of environment and is being kept in a fresh water tank.
The department is being advised by veterinarian Katie Frame from Island Veterinary Services and a specialist manatee vet in Puerto Rico.
The baby manatee requires feeding every three hours, as well as receiving regular shots of antibiotics and also a solution for gas.
‘We are feeding him a specialist solution via a bottle to re-hydrate him and we hope to start him on a milk formula shortly. At the moment he is slightly underweight,’ Miss Blumenthal said.
Feeding 4B requires two people, one in the tank to hold him and another to hold the bottle.
‘He is doing very well and is becoming a lot more energetic than when we first found him, which is a good sign. We need someone experienced to hold 4B as he is becoming quite wiggly as he recovers.’
According to Ms Blumenthal, the department of environment is working on finding a specialist manatee facility to take care of 4B until he can be released back into the wild. She said that they are also looking into transportation options.
‘We are trying to find a facility with trained manatee vets and other manatee’s to keep 4B company. We are looking at a number of options, including facilities in Florida and Puerto Rico,’ Ms Blumenthal explained.
4B will have to be bottle fed for the next two years until he can survive on his own in the wild.
The manatee is likely to remain in Cayman for the next two weeks.
‘4B is friendly and likes being near someone. He probably feels very alone in the tank and normally at this age he would be with his mum in a family group,’ Ms Blumenthal said.
If you spot 4B’s mum or would like to help feed the baby manatee, contact the Department of Environment on 949-8469.