Visitors to Zoo de Beauval have been enamored of a six-week-old West Indian Manatee, named Kali’na. The calf was born October 28 to her six-year-old mother, Lolita.
First-time mom, Lolita, originally gave birth to twin females. Typically, a Manatee calf will weigh around 20 kg at birth. Lolita’s calves weighed-in at 10 and 15 kg. Although veterinarians and keepers worked to save the smaller of the two females, she did not survive the first day.
Since that time, the remaining twin has been meticulously cared for by Lolita and keepers say they are both doing very well. Keepers named the new calf Kali’na in reference to a tribe native to Guyana.
The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), or "Sea Cow", is the largest surviving member of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia (which also includes the Dugong and the extinct Steller's Sea Cow). As its name implies, the West Indian manatee lives in the West Indies, or Caribbean, generally in shallow coastal areas.
The gestation period for a Manatee is 12 to 14 months. Normally, one calf is born, although on rare occasions two have been recorded. The young are born with molars, allowing them to consume sea grass within the first three weeks of birth. The family unit consists of mother and calf, which remain together for up to two years. Males contribute no parental care to the calf.
The West Indian Manatee was placed on the Endangered Species List in the 1970s, when there were only several hundred left. The species has been of great conservation concern to federal, state, private, and nonprofit organizations to protect these species from natural and human-induced threats like collisions with boats. On March 30, 2017, the United States Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, announced the federal reclassification of the Manatee from “endangered” to “threatened”, as the number of Sea Cows had increased to over 6,000. On a global scale, the species is classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).