- Kai and Junior, two male manatees, will be sent to the Grand Cul-de-sac Marin, a protected bay in Guadeloupe that will keep the manatees away from boating traffic.
- They will soon be joined by 13 more manatees from various zoological institutions, forming the founding group.
- This group’s future offspring will then be reintroduced to the wild, Singapore’s River Safari team says.
In the beginning of the 20th century, over-hunting wiped out all west Indian manatees from the waters of the French Caribbean Islands of Guadeloupe located in the eastern Caribbean sea.
But now, two male West Indian or Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus), currently residing in a Singapore zoo, are being re-introduced to Guadeloupe in what is believed to be the world’s first manatee re-population program. The program is led by the National Park of Guadeloupe.
The two manatees — Kai, born on 8 October 2009, and Junior, born on 2 February 2010 at River Safari, a Singapore-based zoo and aquarium — are almost inseparable, according to a statement released by the zoo.
Kai and Junior will be sent to the Grand Cul-de-sac Marin, a protected bay that has an “enforced no-entry zone” to keep the manatees away from boating traffic, the statement says. They will soon be joined by 13 more manatees from various zoological institutions, forming the founding group. This group’s future offspring will then be reintroduced to the wild, the River Safari team adds.
The two manatees will fly out to Guadeloupe in the next few weeks, a flight that is likely to take more than 30 hours. They will be accompanied by veterinarians from the National Park of Guadeloupe, and two aquarists from River Safari.
Threatened by hunting (often illegal), vehicular collisions, and other environmental stresses, Antillean manatee numbers are declining. The subspecies is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
“We have been very successful in breeding manatees in our care for the past 20 years,” Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said in a statement. “We are very happy that this success will now contribute to restocking part of the species’ historic range in the Caribbean where it has been extinct for the past century. Projects like this is one of many ways that we are contributing to the survival of species in the wild.”