Almost 1,000 kilograms plus over 9,000 kilometres in 16 hours by air and another 8 hours by land transport.
These are the key numbers related to the first, now fully successful, transport of manatees to Europe in 20 years. The complex logistic undertaking is part of the struggle for the survival of a species endangered with extinction.
The animals in question, Caribbean manatees, live in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean, in an area stretching from Florida through the Caribbean to the coast of Brazil. Despite the fact that their population has been gradually increasing over past years, they are still endangered with extinction as a result of man’s commercial activity in this region, among other things. This is why transports such as the one undertaken by Zoo Wrocław are so important.
- Currently, there are 76 manatees living in zoological gardens across the world. The problem is, however, that there are not enough female manatees in Europe. Hence the need to fetch them from remote places so as to enrich the genetic pool of the population, which is required by organisations under which we actively operate, such as EAZA or WAZA. Thanks to one of the biggest transport procedures in the history of our zoological garden, the female manatees from Wildlife Reserves Singapore, having travelled for 20 hours, arrived in Wrocław to be mated with the males living here – says Radosław Ratajszczak, ZOO Wrocław President. – The whole undertaking required complex logistics as the transport involved a very fragile “cargo”. Manatees are water mammals, so transporting them is a big challenge. They were placed in special crates and hanged on hammocks, thanks to which their lungs were protected from the pressure of their body mass. There, on continually moistened sponges, they covered the distance first by air and then on land. There were 6 people making sure they were safe, including their zookeeper from the Singapore facility. All of this is necessary to ensure that animals experience the least stress possible – he adds.
The loading of the manatees on the plane started on Wednesday (September 5) in Singapore. At 06.30 pm, the animals left for Poland. The female manatees, named Abel and Ling, were welcomed in Warsaw. From there, it was just a simple road trip to Wrocław with special transport organised by the specialist freight company “Waldek” Pałys sp.j. on a heated semi-trailer made by Heering. A similar procedure had taken place in the previous year when two male manatees were transported from Singapore to Guadalupe.
Manatees should be transported in the right air temperature, that is 260C – says Dominik Szoka, manatee keeper from Zoo Wrocław – At the same time, their respiratory rate should be monitored, as well as their position. If need be (usually every 1-1.5 hours), their skin should be moistened. This is why a whole team looks after the animals ensuring their comfort.– he adds.
In Wrocław, the female manatees were directly placed in a big pool at the Africarium, where they will go through a month’s quarantine. After that time, they will be united with the males.
The transport of the manatees is part of the mission set out by Zoo Wrocław, which undertakes a number of initiatives for animal protection every year. This shows a redefinition of zoological gardens’ priorities, which in the past served only the purpose of entertainment while now are fighting for the survival of endangered species through breeding.