There’s a twist in the salty tale of the wayward manatee that made its way from southern waters to Cape Cod this summer. Not only is the marine mammal not male, as researchers and rescue experts had thought, she is also expecting.
Officials from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the nonprofit that rescued the manatee from Falmouth last week before the waters cooled, announced Tuesday that the 800-pound animal is four to five months pregnant.
“We were really fortunate to find the manatee and rescue her before the water temperatures dropped,” Katie Moore, director of IFAW’s animal rescue program, said in a statement. “Knowing that she is carrying a calf makes her survival even more important.”
Manatees can die from “cold stress” when the water temperatures drop below 68 degrees, causing their organs to shut down.
The discovery came during a routine medical exam by staff at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, where the manatee was taken for rehabilitation after she was rescued.
“This further elevates the importance of this effort and the care she is receiving by our world-class team of professionals,” Stephen M. Coan, chief executive of the aquarium, said in a statement. “For all of us, it provides a boost to the conservation efforts of this incredible but endangered species.”
Specialists said the gestation period for a manatee is about one year. The manatee, dubbed “Washburn,” will spend time in Connecticut before she is sent back to Florida for additional rehabilitation. Eventually, she will be released into the wild.
Washburn was caught after a weeks-long adventure brought her to the Falmouth area, near Washburn Island. Rescue crews captured her in a net, then dragged her onto the beach. They then took her by boat to a staging area, where she was loaded into a special transport vehicle. After stabilizing the manatee, they shipped her to Connecticut.Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.