Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Guantanamo Saves a Manatee- Amazing rescue story!

Some stories just have to be shared.... this is one I love! I wish I had been there to take more pictures.

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- An orphaned baby manatee was rescued by Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, (NS GTMO) personnel at the installation's marina, May 3.

The 3-day-old, 77-pound manatee is a West Indian endangered species found sporadically throughout Florida, the Greater Antilles, Central America, and South America.

Army Capt. Miriam Lovell, the officer-in-charge of GTMO's Veterinary Treatment Facility, along with Army Staff Sgt. Jamie Jackson and Army Sgt. Jody Gaudrault, both veterinarian technicians, immediately went to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation's marina when they received a phone call from the Port Operations department about the manatee.

"Manatees usually don't go into the marina, so we went down there to try and find its mom," said Jackson.

Tim Baugh, of MWR Outdoor Recreation, ensured that a boom was placed in the area where the manatee was located and that boaters were notified of the animal's presence. Tiana Armstrong, of Red Cross Disaster and Mississippi Animal Response Team, also worked with the team to ensure that the environment was undisturbed in the hopes that its mother would return.

Masters-at-Arms 2nd Class Travis Rader and Masters-at-Arms 3rd Class Sara Tusa were called to assist with the rescue efforts. Rader and Tusa, both with the Naval Station Security department, are in training to become the installation's game wardens.

The Naval Station's Natural Resources Manager Jose Montalvo was also on scene to assist with the rescue. As the rescue went on, the team decided to name the manatee "Manny."

Jackson and the others entered the water to put the manatee on a stretcher and into a boat. They then went near pier 33, where it was reported that an adult manatee was sighted.

"We went out and a manatee was seen, but we didn't know if it was the mom or not. When we released the baby manatee in the same area, the adult manatee swam away and did not try to connect with the baby at all," said Gaudrault.

Returning with Manny to the Marina, the team searched for the manatee's mother, while coordination by others was ongoing.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott Armstrong, Air Operations officer, NS GTMO was contacted by Lovell to discuss different courses of actions that could be taken to transport the animal.

"After collecting input from her and manatee experts stateside, I presented these to Cmdr. David Hughes at Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (N32) and Mr. Jene Nissen of Fleet Forces Command Environmental Services," said Armstrong. "Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Dr. Frank Stone from the Chief of Naval Operation's Energy and Environmental Readiness Division (N45) who spearheaded the coordination at the Federal level with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS)."

After several unsuccessful attempts to find the calf's mother, it was decided that the weakening manatee had to be transported from the Naval Station to preserve its life.

"During the day Dr. Stone and I agreed the best course of action was to transport the manatee on the Station C-12, due to the time critical nature of the problem, as well as the specialized care and monitoring required to protect the manatee wherever it was," he said. "Members of the Manatee Rescue department of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Jacksonville, Fla. coordinated with facilities in Florida and Puerto Rico including the Manatee Conservation Center in Bayamón Puerto Rico. Dr. Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni of the Center secured agreements and authority from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to request we transfer the manatee to their care for the purpose of saving its life."

Before putting the manatee on the aircraft, they had to ensure that the transport would be done safely.

"Naval Aircrewman 1st Class Samuel Arias and I constructed a "Manatee Playpen" by strapping down a foam pad to protect the manatee's body underneath, over which we secured a waterproof tarp to prevent any water intrusion to the aircraft," Armstrong said. "On top of that we put in an inflatable "Kiddie Pool" lined with wet towels which we covered 'Manny' with, and secured a small bucket of water to keep him moist."

The manatee was placed on the Naval Station's C-12 and with Gaudrault by its side, transported on a two-hour flight to Isla Grande Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The manatee was then taken to the Manatee Conservation Center located at Interamerican University in Bayamón.

Nine members of the Center met the aircraft and immediately provided electrolytes to the slightly dehydrated calf. The caregivers named the calf "Guamá," in honor to a Taino Chief of the eastern province of Cuba, which is recognized as a figure of historic importance for Cuba.

The center reported back that the calf is doing well and that it is adjusting comfortably to its new environs.

It is expected that it will take approximately two years before the manatee can be transported back to Cuba and released with a satellite transmitter, according to Montalvo.

Saving the manatee's life was the right thing to do, Armstrong said.

"The Chief of Naval Operations instruction 5090.1C has several passages exhorting Commanding Officers to not jeopardize the continued existence, protect, or not endanger species," he said. "It is Navy policy to comply with applicable laws for the protection and management of wildlife resources and directs the Navy to consult with National Fish and Wildlife Services with any actions they may take regarding endangered species."

According to Armstrong, coordination among Naval Station personnel and outside agencies helped to save the manatee's life.

"GTMO's strength is its pool of talent and inherent flexibility from the diverse missions we are called upon daily to execute, all of which we marshaled to a successful end," said Armstrong. "Where coordination between the highest levels of government was required, oft lamented inertia was nowhere to be seen, and the inherent drive to get the right things done for the right reasons shone particularly brightly."

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