Friday, December 18, 2009

Jersey Manatee Visitor Snowbirds Back to Florida

Like many of NJ's human "snowbirds," a Jersey visitor has headed back to Florida for the holidays.

Ilya, a manatee who journeyed up and down the East Coast, is back in the warm waters off Florida. Ilya also made stops in Cape Cod and Maryland.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rescued Ilya in October from a warm-water outflow pipe at the ConocoPhillips Bayway Refinery in Linden.

Manatees are warm-water animals, so Ilya needed to get back to Florida before winter conditions set in.

Scars on the manatee's back identified him as e regular visitor to Northern waters. It is possible that Ilya came north in July in search of a mate. (A popular activity at the Jersey shore during the summer.)

On October 15th, a surprised oil refinery worker found him near a warm-water discharge pipe where he was trying to stay warm. The water temperature was 53 degrees while manatees need a water temperature of at least 68 degrees.

He was transported to a heated indoor pool at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J. After he was cleared for transport, he was flown back to the Florida at the end of October aboard a Coast Guard C-130 cargo aircraft.

Ilya spent 6 weeks recovering from his cold exposure in a warm tank at the Seaquarium on Florida's Biscayne Bay.

Ilya is now off on his own again and hopefully will be more careful - 91 manatees have already been killed in 2009 by watercraft near Florida. Ilya has a white scar on his head and notches on his tail from boat hits.

Facilities such as the NJ Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) and the Miami Seaquarium are vital to the recovery of the endangered manatee population and other marine creatures. This may seem like extraordinary measures for one manatee, but each individual is important to the long-term survival of the species.

West Indian manatees in the United States are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal. West Indian manatees are also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Violations of these federal or state laws can be met with civil or criminal convictions associated with monetary fines and/or imprisonment.

The MMSC has events to raise funds and awareness about the animals and their problems. Sponsorships help them continue the work of rescuing and rehabilitating Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles. There are also opportunities to volunteer at the Center.

Wayward manatee rescued in N.J. is flown to safety

To learn more about manatees
Save the Manatee Club (FL)
Miami Seaquarium
Marine Mammal Stranding Center (NJ)

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