Ah yes another week has gone by and I'm fully settled in. This week was fairly routine; everyday I walk Twiggy out into the lagoon where she follows me to the best sea grass grazing areas, I stay with her for the two three hour shifts observing how much time she spends feeding, playing, and resting. When time is up I walk her back to her lagoon pool area where I bottle feed her the powdered milk and vitamines that help with digestion. While in the lagoon I always bring a blow up float with me and ancor it in the sea grass area. This is because when Twiggy was smaller there was always a float in her pool that she could hide and sleep under. Manatees are very social animals that need a lot of physical contact; having the float in the pool with her gave her something to hold and hug. When first introducing Twiggy to the lagoon, volunteers would lay on the float so she would associate those people being in that area; she had constant contact with the people and knew them well. Now we are weaning this human contact from Twiggy by continuing to bring the float out to the area but by observing her behavior from the shore. In a few weeks time she will also be weaned from the float. Slowly but surely Twiggy is becoming more independent and not relying upon people; she's being weaned from us, her float, and is currently in the process of finishing up with the milk. It is the centers hope that Twiggy will be ready for realease into Corozal Bay sometime between June and September where she will meet up with one of the 4 manatee herds already established there. She will no longer be following me to the feeding grounds, but other manatees :)
This week I also worked on data entry. Information about Twiggy's feeds such as time, amount given, amount spilt, total drank, and the formula/vitamine ratio all need to be recorded. We do the recording in a book and then transfer the information onto the computer. Unfortunately data hadn't been entered into the computer for about 3 months so I had quite the project! Now the information is all up to date and it will take much less time to update as I keep up with the records.
On Sunday a group of people from Blue Ventures, they do expeditions and research projects concerning the ocean, came to Wildtracks to learn about the rehabilitation project. I assisted my supervisor Zoe in giving them a tour of the facility and explaining the process of rehabilitating orphaned manatees. After showing them the pools, explaining heat regulations, and demonstrating a feeding, I showed them back to the main house and Zoe gave a presentation explaining why manatees are a vulnrable species and what's been happening to the population. It was a good learning experience for myself as well because I got to hear a bit more background information about how they start the rehabilitation process and continue along through the steps of recovery.
Time has been flying by! I only have 16 days left and I'm nowhere near ready to leave this experience behind. It's been a lot of long days, but I get to hang out with a manatee!