Manatee Rehabilitation Volunteer
- Volunteer Opportunity posted by Wildtracks Primate and Manatee Rehabilitation Center
Short-Term (few weeks/months)
Belize is home to the Antillean Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus), a sub-species of the West Indian manatee. The Antillean manatee is considered globally endangered and, in Belize, is being pressured by the increasing boat traffic in key manatee areas, and increasing threats to the coastal environment – primarily habitat loss resulting from coastal development.
The global Antillean manatee population is estimated at 6,700, but is genetically fragmented. The Mesoamerican subpopulation (ranging from southern Mexico to Panama) is estimated at only 2,350. Belize is considered to be the stronghold for manatees in Mesoamerica, with a population estimated to be between 700 – 1000 individuals. Injured and/or orphaned manatees found in the coastal waters of Belize are brought to the Manatee Rehabilitation Centre at Wildtracks for rehabilitation and eventual release back into the wild. The rehabilitation process can take as long as three and a half years, depending on the age of the animal and the severity of its injuries. With such a low population count, it is critically important to facilitate the return of every animal to the wild.
Manatee rehabilitation can be very labour-intensive, particularly when supporting injured or orphaned manatees. Foster-mother support of manatee calves, 24-hour in-water assistance for injured manatees on arrival, preparing milk, collecting sea grass, scrubbing pools, maintaining records, and supervising exercise are examples of necessary wildlife care and require a very significant amount of carer time.
In a country such as Belize, where financing support from Government is limited, this level of care can only be provided by volunteers. The Manatee Rehabilitation Centre has a very small salaried staff and relies heavily on its volunteer team. Volunteering can be hard work, tiring, and smelly….but also extremely rewarding. Volunteer placements run year- round, and the minimum time frame is one month - though longer placements are preferred. Some volunteers have extended their stay for up to six months, and many keep returning!
No past experience working with manatees or other marine mammals is required, only a strong interest and a good work ethic! We provide all of the training required to work with the animals on site.
- Training Provided
- Housing Available
- International Volunteers