Nearly two months after a manatee named Tico was released from a rehabilitation facility and made his way into the deep waters of the open ocean, an international team of volunteers was delighted when he was found after traveling nearly 2,500 miles, reported The Australian.
After being released into the wild by Brazilian NGO Aquasis off Icapui in Northeastern Brazil on July 6, Tico’s caregivers were worried until Tico was finally rescued off the coast of La Blanquilla island in Venezuela, BBC News reported.
In October of 2014, Aquasis originally rescued Tico as a stranded newborn in Northeastern Brazil’s Praia das Agulhas.
Manatees tend to live, feed and reproduce in waters about three to seven feet deep, according to to Save the Manatee Club. When they travel offshore, it is in water about ten to 16 feet deep, but it is rare for them to be found in water more than 20 feet deep.
“We thought that he was dead, or that it was just the equipment that showed up,” said Camila Carvalho, a member of the team at Aquasis that released Tico, as reported by BBC News. Carvalho is also one of those who received the transmission of Tico’s location.
Since manatees tend to spend most of their time sleeping and feeding in shallow waters, when Tico began swimming deep into the ocean, his caregivers made the decision to try to go after him.
Rescuers had rushed to find Tico in boats, planes and cars before veterinarians from Venezuela’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources tracked him via a GPS transmitter.
The transmitter had been attached to Tico’s tail, and late last month Tico rose enough to let the team from Aquasis know he was off the shore of Tobago, the smaller of the two islands that make up the nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Tico’s journey had taken him into international waters and through those of French Guiana and Suriname before ending up in Tobago.
After Carvalho and her team began reaching out to residents in Trinidad and Tobago in their search for Tico, a fisherman found the lost manatee.
But there was still another harrowing chapter in the rescue mission after Tico was found near the wall’s edge at Tobago’s Scarborough Port.
Dr. Reia Guppy, assistant professor at the marine sciences department of the University of Trinidad and Tobago, said Tico was swimming where the ferry was about to dock in an hour or so, as BBC News reported.
Guppy was able to steer Tico out of harm’s way after taking charge of a fishing boat, but Tico ran from his rescuers.
After eluding the rescue team, Tico’s journey ended in Venezuela on Monday, where he was brought to a private marine sanctuary on Margarita Island to recover.
Arrangements are being made in cooperation with authorities from Venezuela to return Tico to Brazil.
Manatees are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and as endangered in Brazil.
The rescue mission highlights the dangers these gentle herbivores face in Brazil, where the mangroves manatees take shelter in to give birth and raise their young are being wrecked by developers. As one of their sources of food and sanctuary disappears, manatees make their way out to sea to give birth to their young.
“When they do that, the calf is vulnerable because of the waves,” Carvalho told BBC News. “We rescue a lot of newborns, and sometimes we are not able to see the mum, to try to return the manatees to their mother.”
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