On March 19th 2013 Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) rangers responded to a call from a community member of the Monkey River village about a manatee stranding half mile up the river.
The Monkey River is the largest of the five rivers that empties into the reserve which are home to Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus), a subspecies of the West Indian manatee.
The dead manatee was located on the left bank using an upstream orientation tucked under overhanging vegetation tied with a rope around the tail. An assumption can be made that the rope found around the tail was used to tow the manatee into the location where it was found.
The Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute was notified and a decision was made to gather information. Thereafter the manatee was retrieved from the water and carried to the Punta Y Cacos beach where measurements and photos were taken. The manatee was found to be 5 ft. 10 inches in length, approximately 200-250 lbs. in weight, female and had a 14 inch laceration along the lower back. Based on the location, size, and depth of the open wound it can be concluded that the wound was made by a sharp object and not a propeller. In Belize the majority of manatee deaths are caused by boat hit and poaching. In the instance of a propeller hit multiple wounds would have been visible however that is not the case here and no other scars or marks were found. In addition, a tissue sample was also taken for genetic research. To avoid health hazards the carcass was buried in the Punta Y Cacos area.
Since the protection of manatee in the 1930’s this endangered species is still currently under threats of poaching, collisions and entanglement from gill nets. Based on information that was given by the PHMR rangers who constantly patrol the Monkey River area, illegal gill netting is still the most common problem. It is evident that gill net fishing must be banned not only to protect the fisheries but also the endangered species such as the West Indian Manatee, Sea Turtles, and Morlet’s Crocodile etc. TIDE continues to promote education and outreach in the local communities about the importance for protection of the natural resources. However this cannot be accomplished without the support of the communities.