GPS Tracking Being Used to Monitor Manatee’s Adaptation to the Wild After Rehabilitation

6 Mar 2018

GPS tracking has been used to help answer a variety of questions over the years. From questions about your precise location to getting turn by turn directions to unfamiliar locations, and a variety of questions in between, it has been instrumental in helping man. Now, it is being used to help beasts.

One case that is currently making headlines, involves a manatee – a female by the name of Carolina, who recently spent six weeks in the Jacksonville Zoo’s critical care facility recovering from symptoms of “cold stress.” Now, she has been deemed healthy enough for release into the wild, but does so, equipped with a bright, shiny new piece of jewelry around her tail – a GPS tracker.

The trackers were provided by the Sea to Shore Alliance in hopes of monitoring the movements of these beautiful and surprisingly sociable beasts of the sea. Manatees were once endangered species. Through significant conservation efforts, they have been updated to “threatened.”

Today, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources reports that there are approximately 6,000 of these creatures swimming around in U.S. waters. Despite the recent population “boom” among manatees, they are still quite vulnerable and this winter, with its colder than average temperatures and rare snow falls dipping far more southerly than usual, has placed more than a few manatees in distress, including one manatee that was recently found dead on a Hilton Head Island Beach.

Manatees need water to be at least 70 degrees to survive so these cooler temperatures are putting them at risk. The hope is that by tracking the movements of manatees and how well they adapt when returning to the wild after experiencing rehabilitation, like Carolina. Sea to Shore Alliance also seeks to study the foraging habitats of manatees, migration patterns, and behaviors and characteristics of these noble sea creatures.

The GPS trackers used to monitor these movements and behaviors poses no threat to the creatures themselves and are specifically designed to function naturally with the manatee. It includes three parts: a padded belt, a float, and a flexible tether. The design has been well-researched and enhanced over several decades to provide minimal interference with the manatee’s normal activities and to pose no risks for potentially dangerous entanglements.



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