Though not a traditional time of year for manatee births, Zoo Parc de Beauval in France welcomed a manatee calf yesterday! The little one has been seen suckling and swimming near mom in its first 24 hours.
Manatees are born underwater and mom helps the calf get to the surface to take its first breath. The babies can usually swim on their own within the first hour after birth. While they only nurse as calves, they will grow to become hearty grazers...eating up to a tenth of their weight in algae, weeds and grasses in a single day!
Sometimes called sea cows, manatees are actually graceful swimmers despite their size. They never leave the water but need to come to the surface to breathe like all marine mammals. Often the only thing visible at the surface of the water is their nose, but below, their powerful tails can propel them along at 5 mph (8 kmph).
There are three species of this highly endangered animal, and they each live in different areas – one in the Amazon River, another along the west coast and rivers of Africa, and a third along the east coast of North America. Beauval Zoo is the only Zoo in France to have a manatee, which was born as part of as the European breeding program for this species (EEP).