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Newborn Manatee


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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 03:57 AM

I have just put a front page post to highlight some extraordinary images that Carol took of a newborn manatee in Crystal River.

I know that Carol is in touch with various manatess experts and researchers and I am sure that there is much more interesting information to come. So I have started this thread so she can share it with us! Come on, Carol. I want to see more photos!

Just to set the scene in Carol's own words:
“It was Friday, Feb 29th, 2008 – an extra “leap year” day and unbeknownst to me a very rare encounter was just around the bend. Upon arriving that cold morning, I noticed manatee kicking up the bottom out front of the sanctuary at Three Sisters Spring, Crystal River, Florida; I thought they were “cavorting” when I saw something small, black and wriggling! My heart was racing, as I knew a wild manatee birth had never been documented and even newborn manatee encounters underwater were almost un-heard-of.”

Posted Image
Riding on a Female’s Back (not his mother) Helping, Curiosity or “Kidnapping”?

Carol first sent the images to Bob Bonde (USGS Sirenia Project, author and manatee researcher) who said after looking at them: “I am certain it is a newborn male calf probably born during the night. Photos of newborns underwater in the wild exist but are rare. Most are of calves that died and were examined at necropsy. Your pictures therefore are quite remarkable.”

Alex

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#2 SimonSpear

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 04:25 AM

Truly beautiful. Anyone who has the chance to spend some time in the water with these amazing creatures will come away with the experience permanently imprinted on them. To witness and photograph such a rare event as this would be so far beyond even that, that it's hard to imagine the feelings you must have gone through and be going through now. :) They really are remarkable creatures.

Cheers, Simon

#3 TheRealDrew

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 04:59 AM

Beautiful shot, congrats Carol. Your knowledge, passion and love of the Manatee comes across again.

I will echo the fine words Alex wrote in the article on the front of WP

I am very happy for her that her many hours in the water there have been rewarded with such a wonderful moment.



#4 elbuzo

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 05:19 AM

Carol glad that you had such a remarkable experience . Your shots are great . The expression in the face of the calf !!! what a beauty

Congratulations

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#5 loftus

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 05:27 AM

Awesome Carol, you are the manatee queen.
This little guy is amazing!
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#6 yahsemtough

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 05:35 AM

What a great experience to be able to see.

Congrats

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#7 Lionfish43

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 05:45 AM

Congrats on the rare shot. Your dedication is paying off. Well at least in the reward of accomplishment.....I have no idea about the monetary part.
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#8 scubamarli

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 07:24 AM

Fantastic! Congratulations on capturing the magic!
Cheers,
Marli
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#9 DeanB

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 07:26 AM

Awwww look at its Likkle Nosey and its sweet ikkle flippers.... :) Thats real booty !!!!!

Ahem !!! yeah amazing shot Carol... Kudos

Dive safe

Dean(not soft really)B

P.s do other Mother/female Manatee's baby-sit newbies ????
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#10 debersole

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 07:27 AM

Truly amazing, Carol. Thanks so much for sharing such special images.

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#11 dhaas

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 07:49 AM

Carol,

Time in the water and watching has rewarded you with a once in a lifetime encounter. Thanks for sharing!

Major Major Kudos :)

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#12 seagrant

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 10:19 AM

Wow, thanks everyone for all the many congrats, etc.! I appreciate it.

I know Alex and Co. are "tapping their toes" for more photos (it is just like the in-laws to act like that you know...... :lol: ) - yes I'll get a couple posted soon but realize too some are going to be in print and I have to keep something fresh to surprise everyone!! :)

Yes, as I told Bob Bonde at first that this was the best thing I've ever witnessed underwater by far, I was so excited and exhilarated..... But his initial answer tempered my enthusiasm and I began to worry as I became very "attached" to "Angel". As with with many things in nature there are two sides to this story (and probably more)...., but the good news is that in this case the mother and calf did bond and all is well - keep your fingers crossed!! More data in answer to Dean's ? below:

P.s do other Mother/female Manatee's baby-sit newbies ????


You know Dean that is what I first thought when I saw this. I thought those were sort of "mid-wives" helping, "baby-sitters", etc. And while this probably does occur in manatee society, well here again is Bob Bonde on the subject:

"I think the behavior you observed does not constitute midwife activities, but more a form of curiosity. Unfortunately, this type of possible interference may be deliberate and could lead to calf/cow separation. This has been demonstrated in other mammal populations, but is rare in manatees as late pregnant females will generally seek out quiet areas where the chances of disturbance are minimized. We have observed what you watched with a couple of our pregnant radio tagged manatees after giving successful birth on the Atlantic coast. The good news is that the moms were determined enough (or lucky?) to retain the bond. Only time will tell here."

But just to interject my observation - the way I see it manatee have almost none, if any aggressive tendencies. Even during mating there is a lot of activity and males are persistent and lots of jostling occurs, etc, but there are no injuries and such. If these manatee were "curious" about the baby it is possible that manatee are also so "enamored" with a new baby that they "lose their heads" (much like people do sometimes around manatee..... :) ). This is just another viewpoint, strictly from my observational standpoint but of course Bob has a much more broad and factual view of the situation with his 25 years + of manatee research.

Interesting thing was I observed a young male manatee separating the newborn from its mother, and I even photoed what looked like the calf trying to nurse on the younger male. So this brings to light the serious consequences that can "innocently" or "not so innocently" occur if the newborn cannot bond with its own mother during all the "hubbub" and the calf does not survive. Thus Bob's comment above about how manatee moms usually seek out remote areas to give birth. Why didn't that happen in this case? First of all the weather was very cold, 32 degrees that am and the Three Sister's area is the warmest place at Crystal River. Plus the tide and wind created a very low water level and it is possible that the manatee mother had to "give birth in the back of the cab" so to speak........ I found the afterbirth on the shallow substrate right outside the sanctuary. Yes it was probably scraped off there but it does give clues as to the birth area.

Also I have just learned from Cathy Beck at USGS (United States Geological Survey), Bob Bonde's associate who is in charge of IDing all the manatees that this mother was probably a first-time mom. Ah the pieces of the puzzle start to fit....... Again in Cathy Beck's own words (in response to 130 photos I sent the USGS of the event):

"Thanks so much for sending us the link to view your beautiful images of this newborn calf and the adults with her. Sorry it's taken us a few days to match the mom of this newborn. We have photo-documented her only twice, both times in the Homosassa, in March 2005 and Jan 2006. In 2005 she was considered a subadult, so I suspect this might be her first calf. The manatee close-by, with the left tail mutilation is also a female (image #42). There are a few other known manatees in the group - one in particular is CR485 (white scar, mid-tail, seen on image #57), another young female, first seen while still a dependent calf in early 2001. We're still working on more details, but just wanted to get back to you with what we had so far. Also, one of our biologists, Susan Butler, was at 3 Sisters this morning and reported that the mom and calf were both in the sanctuary!"

So you see why my encounter was so rare, even in such a populated area. And it is good that it is rare and I actually hope the actual "birth-moment" is never recorded in the wild as it has been documented in captivity so that is all we need to know. For the good of the new mother/calf privacy is important and I'm proud to say that the only people that showed up to witness the event were extremely polite and understanding of the situation (that I of course clued them into). But the other manatee involved were not as understanding as the polite people for sure! ;) Still my feeling is that it was all quite "innocent" amongst a few over-excited manatees.

Still it looks like Angel's survival instincts are strong and he and his mom are together and doing well at Crystal River right now!! It won't hurt for everyone to send their good thoughts though....... GO ANGEL!!!!!!!

Thanks Everyone, Again It Was Just Amazing - it is what we spend all that time planning and being underwater for - moments like this............... Carol

Edited by seagrant, 07 March 2008 - 10:47 AM.

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#13 kriptap

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 11:19 AM

Fantastic! Congratulations on capturing the magic!
Cheers,
Marli


Nothing scary about that, eh Dean :)

Edited by kriptap, 07 March 2008 - 11:19 AM.


#14 allen

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 04:35 PM

Very nice ... always fun to see a new little critter.

#15 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 11:09 PM

Quite a few friends of mine from the UK have been there this week (when they should be sitting through the sessions of the Ocean Sciences meeting in Orlando) and they said that there were two young babies there on Weds/Thurs. Sounds exciting. Although they are all seeing manatees for the first time so they may not be the most reliable sources of information.

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#16 seagrant

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 05:15 AM

Quite a few friends of mine from the UK have been there this week (when they should be sitting through the sessions of the Ocean Sciences meeting in Orlando) and they said that there were two young babies there on Weds/Thurs. Sounds exciting. Although they are all seeing manatees for the first time so they may not be the most reliable sources of information.
Alex


I believe it Alex. One was most certainly "Angel" as he was documented at 3 sisters, in the sanctuary on Thursday.

And a week ago - Thursday, I saw another female, again a younger pregnant one (probably another first-time mom) who looked about to "pop". So I'm not surprised and I believe their reports are accurate. (Unfortunately I couldn't go this last week because I had to get over a little "flu" that I caught because I spent too much time being cold myself....., but it was worth it!!!!.... :rolleyes: )

Interestingly enough Bob Bonde also told me that he is always concerned (he sounds like an expectant father you know...... :D ..); anyway he is concerned that with the manatee gestation period at around 12 months - with our mild Winter that warmed up early last year - the females that got pregnant then ('07) could be being forced into giving birth now, during these rather intense (but short) cold snaps we have been getting late this Winter season. The hurdles faced for them include being forced to calve while being nutritionally challenged after the Winter season (as there is not as much nutritional food in the fresh water spring areas) and being forced to give birth with lots of other manatee crowded around the warm spots.

So we need to be cognizant of this and all the more thankful that manatee are intelligent and resourceful creatures and mother manatee especially I'm finding out!!!!

Send lots of well-wishes to the manatee moms right now as we have had some more severe late Winter weather here in Florida. It is a volatile time for them for sure and our understanding and compassion for them should just grow during this time.

Carol

Edited by seagrant, 08 March 2008 - 05:16 AM.

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#17 Arnon_Ayal

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 12:43 AM

Great capture, congrats on the rare event.
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#18 seagrant

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 02:57 PM

Thanks everyone for the additional congrats.

We saw Angel today and he is 10 days old!!!! He is learning buoyancy and swimming like a champ and is about the cutest thing you have ever seen. Viz wasn't as good today but I'll look through my pics soon and post updates....... (I know everyone wants baby pics...)

Interesting thing is everyone -- the manatee with the "split-tail" in the photo where Angel is riding on mom is still hanging around the mom/calf now even 10 days later. In fact today she had Angel for extended periods of time and took him out by herself for little swim "jaunts". Then mom would take Angel out, or both of those females would.

I'm not so sure Bob Bonde had this one pegged totally or at least maybe some of the manatee were distracting or too-curious about the infant but possibly one or more of the female manatees was actually in some way "helping" the mother with Angel as a newborn, 10 days ago? Or maybe Bob is right and the female manatee with the "split-tail" is like the "guest who would never leave" - or something of the sort........

I don't know but it is really fascinating. Angel definitely has "two moms" - perhaps one is a "grandmother"??

Pics to follow soon, Best Carol

Edited by seagrant, 10 March 2008 - 03:00 PM.

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#19 echeng

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 09:11 PM

I'm here with Carol and got to see Angel. He is SO CUTE.

A couple of photos:

Posted Image

Posted Image
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#20 seagrant

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 12:43 AM

*ANGEL UPDATE*

"THE GUEST WHO WOULD NEVER LEAVE?"

I've just posted a new blog entry/update on my site regarding Angel and his eventful life so far, all 10 days or so of it! B)

Here are a couple of photographs from Monday and I'll past the blog copy as I do sometimes just to be polite (and save everyone a "click")..., don't expect all the links to work right though... :)

Angel the 10 day old manatee peeking over his mom here - they are just about to be interrupted.....
Posted Image

Angel's "second mom" making her presence known
Posted Image

Copy from my site:

Angel” update - is this “The Guest That Would Never Leave?”

Yes, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the moment when I could catch a “glimpse” of Angel - the newborn manatee again. You may recall I was privileged to have the rare opportunity to photograph him within hours after he was born about 10 days ago. Monday he was 10 days old!!! Bring out the cake and candles - I feel like a proud “mom”!

So Monday, fellow underwater photographer extraordinaire - Eric Cheng and his friend Don Kehoe came to see manatees and maybe catch a glimpse of “Angel” for themselves before the end of the manatee season at Crystal River (which by the way is winding down very soon). I was glad they came but even more pleased that both got to see little Angel and were able to get a little more than a “glimpse” to boot. Eric has written a short log about the experience with pics in his journal here.

Referring back to my first photographs of Angel, 10 days ago, you may recall I photoed a few manatee that were very interested in little Angel. One was a female with a “split” tail (a tail injury to the left - it is sad but most manatee are IDed by markings from injuries, most inflicted by boats). Manatee researcher Bob Bonde answered me when I asked him if there were possibly “midwife” activities going on in some of my photographs. He said he didn’t think so and felt it was a form of “curiosity”, about the infant Angel. But looking at my photographs here taken on Monday, this female with the left split in her tail is still hanging around Angel and his mom! In fact she is not only hanging around but regularly takes Angel out for little “swims” with or without his mom coming along. But Angel only nurses off his mother....., so the question is - Who is the other female and what is her role with Angel? Is she still just curious and has she been granted additional privileges by Angel’s mom? Is the female an “escort” - as Eric called her, a relative, perhaps even “grandmother”? Or there is one additional theory presented to me by Rudi, one of the captains from Bird’s Underwater , Crystal River that possibly the additional female “escort” is like “The Guest Who Would Never Leave...”? (For you youngsters that is a classic Saturday Night Live skit - as I recall it had Jane Curtain with Jim Belushi as “The Guest Who Would Never Leave”....) You can thank Rudi from Bird’s for that enlightening bit of humorous trivia - he and I both smiled widely when he suggested that scenario. :-)

Seriously though, manatee infants must bond with their mothers, ideally without interference, so they can begin to nurse right away, recognize each other’s vocalizations, etc. In this case it looks like Angel and his mom bonded well despite all the excited manatee around at the time. But as the photos here document there is still one female manatee that seems to have placed a huge stake in Angel and his future. Is she a concerned manatee “babysitter”, a relative, or is she truly “The Guest Who Would Never Leave....?” Carol :-)

PS - as a side note, I also like these two photographs because they illustrate what makes photography at the springs so incredible and so unpredictable/maddening at the same time. Viz wasn’t good on Monday but it did clear a bit and you can see in these photos the spring water is beginning to make a dent on the right portion of the photograph - whereas in the left part the greenish water is still predominating. Fascinating!

Edited by seagrant, 12 March 2008 - 07:13 AM.

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