Manatees fitted with GPS Trackers to Assess Migratory Patterns and Health

18 Aug 2015

Researchers are attempting to learn how endangered manatees are traveling along the Georgia coast; particularly the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.

According to Georgia Department of Natural Resources, partnering on the project are scientists and wildlife organizations from both Florida and Georgia. The goal of the project is to map out the migratory paths and habitat use of the mammals and assess their health.

Manatees were caught last week by scientists so they could place a GPS tracking device on them and release them back off the Georgia coast into Cumberland Sound.

Satellite transmitters have now been fitted on five manatees which will enable the scientists to track them while they are moving along the Atlantic Ocean.

Researchers will be able to identify high-use habitats and travel corridors thanks to the GPS tracking technology, Georgia DNR’s marine mammal researcher for the Nongame Conservation Section, Clay George said in a statement.

Because boats are a big threat to these animals, wildlife officials say it is important to get a better understanding of how the manatees move in Georgia.

Because manatees often swim right below the surface of the water, they are at risk of colliding with boats. In fact, around 30 percent of manatee deaths were caused by watercraft collisions since 2000 in the state, says the Georgia DNR.

The manatees journey from Florida to George each spring because they are enticed by the abundance of marsh grass and aquatic vegetation. They can be found in all tidal waters in the months of April through October throughout coastal Georgia.

The Georgia DNR, Sea to Shore Alliance, Georgia Aquarium, and the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base are all participants in the research project.

The manatee is a big aquatic relative of elephants. They have thick, wrinkled skin that is grayish brown in color. They are able to steer with their front flippers and on occasion, crawl along shallow water. Their flat tails are powerful and help them propel through water. Although they lack outer ears and have small eyes, they are believed to be able to hear and see very well.

Often called sea cows, manatees, despite their huge bulk, are very graceful swimmers in rivers and coastal waters. Their strong tails power them and they can normally glide around at 5 miles an hour. In short bursts, they can swim 15 miles an hour.




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