Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sea Cow Roundup

-Posted by Karl Bates

Banana leaves and netting wouldn't be much good in trying to capture a terrestrial cow, but for a rare sea-cow off the coast of the Costa Rican/Panamanian border, it proved to be just the thing.

Duke ecology graduate student Daniel Gonzalez has reported the first capture of a Manatee in southern mesoamerica, a feat that required 20 people and remarkable amounts of patience.

The half-ton Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus ssp. manatus) proved agile and cunning, contrary to their reputation as plodding and simple-minded.

“These animals were feeding, fully alert, and capable of incredible bursts of strength – a force to be reckoned with,” Gonzalez told a reporter for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

After a week of trying, the team -- half in the water half in boats -- finally netted a 2-meter female, tagged her for satellite tracking, and set her loose among the mangroves again. Researchers hope she provides a first glimpse into this little-studied subpopulation of grazing sea mammals.