Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chessie the Manatee Rides Again!



Cathy A. Beck, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Southeast Ecological Science Center Sirenia Project in Gainesville, Fla., confirmed that the photos she took were of Chessie. Beck manages the Manatee Individual Photo-identification System (MIPS), a USGS database of images and sighting histories for more than 2,500 manatees, with data for some extending back to the late 1960s. This long-term database provides critical data to model Florida manatee population dynamics needed to assess recovery and status of this endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.


Biologists presumed that Chessie had died, and when they indentified Chessie in Florida, she said they too were very excited.  According to National Aquarium Baltimore’s Stranding Coordinator Jennifer Dittmar, Chessie made his debut in Maryland in 1994 and stayed late into the fall. A rescue effort was undertaken and Chessie, who was named at the time, spent several days in rehabilitation at the National Aquarium Baltimore before being returned to the warm waters of Florida. Chessie hasn’t been seen in nearly 10 years when he was last spotted in Virginal in August of 2001.Some of the aquarium staff from 1994 when Chessie was rescued is still at the aquarium. 


“It’s a great feeling for the staff, especially [knowing] that he’s still out there and doing well,” she said.



In 1994 a satellite transmitter was placed on Chessie, but it was lost somewhere in North Carolina the following year, she said.
 
Given Chessie’s past sightings and travels, Dittmar said that he is likely to be heading north.
“I’ve alerted folks in the northeast region,” she said. Then as the water cools, the manatee will head back to the warmer waters.

More about Chessie at http://fl.biology.usgs.gov/Manatees/Manatee_Sirenia_Project

More manatee charms here and here.  (They aren't endangered.)

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