In the sparkling waters of The Bahamas, there is a gentle giant that has captured our collective hearts – the manatee. And while we are filled with relief that there have been no recent reports of marine mammal strandings, our citizen scientists have gifted us with something special this spring: glimpses of these captivating creatures as they glide through our marinas!
To the observant eyes of our Bahamian communities, it seems manatees are making something of a tour. We have received lots of manatee sightings from the public around The Bahamas, including Old Bahama Bay Marina in February, Great Harbour Cay Marina in March (Figure 1), and The Ocean Club in May (Figure 2).
Manatees have two fore limb flippers that they use for steering movements and to hold vegetation while eating. A large, round, flattened paddle-shaped tail is used for swimming. We can tell the manatees apart from their distinctive paddle marks. Unfortunately, photographs taken at Old Bahama Bay were not of high enough quality to identify the individual, but all other animals are known from previous sightings.
Take a moment to picture Great Harbour Cay Marina in March. It was here that Mike Gould captured a heartwarming reunion of sorts. In the image on the left, you’ll find “JJ”, a manatee first documented as a dependent calf in 2012, now a proud mother with her very own calf. Swimming not too far from her is the impressive “Kong”, believed to be both a guardian and father figure to JJ. Both “Kong” and “JJ” and, now her calf too, appear to have a limited range around Great Harbour Cay as they are often reported in the area.
But the sightings don’t end there! David Holst was in for a surprise early in May at The Ocean Club on Paradise Island. Through his lens, he introduced us to “Ashley-Davis”, a manatee known primarily from Eleuthera Island in 2016. This wanderer was also seen around Nassau last year, proving that the call of adventure is not limited to humans.
Every image and every account is a testament to the vital role that citizen scientists play in preserving the legacy of marine life in The Bahamas. Through the lenses and keen observations from the public, we unravel stories, identify familiar flippers from distinctive paddle marks, and most importantly, safeguard the narrative of our marine co-inhabitants.
To each person who has shared a glimpse, a story, or a moment with The Bahamas Marine Mammal Rescue Organization, we extend our deepest gratitude. Thank you for helping us to ensure the songs of the sea echo for generations to come.
Written by: Diane Claridge, PhD | BMMRO | WhatsApp +1 (242) 357-6666 | firstname.lastname@example.org