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Puerto Rico Guard Helps Save Manatee

By Master Sgt. Bryan Gatewood
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2010 – An 840-pound male West Indian manatee, injured in a boat strike, has a new lease on life, a new name and a new home thanks to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.

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Jonathan Perez Rivera from the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center pours water on a wounded manatee after a four and a half hour flight from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico, aboard a C-130 Hercules from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing. The manatee was being transported to its new home in the Puerto Rico Zoo. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz

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The 156th Airlift Wing of the Puerto Rico National Guard partnered with specialists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Florida Museum, where the manatee was being treated after rescue, to transport the manatee to a rehabilitation center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dec. 9, 2010.

Fish and Wildlife Service representatives contacted officials from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard for help in transporting the manatee. A Puerto Rico ANG C-130 Hercules already was here on base supporting maneuvers for U.S. Special Operations Command and could be put to use for transport.

According to Dr. David Murphy, consulting veterinarian from the South Florida Museum, the sea mammal, nicknamed “UPC” because its injuries resemble a package barcode, is healthy. However, the manatee requires special accommodations in a shallow containment area due to its injuries sustained.

Biologist Dr. Antonio Mignucci-Giannoni added that the boat strike damaged the manatee’s diaphragm, causing the animal to be “negatively buoyant,” which means it will sink if not in a shallow containment area.

The manatee, now called Guacara, will reside at the Manatee Conservation Center in San Juan, and will serve as a surrogate parent to other orphaned manatees in rehabilitation.The West Indian manatee currently is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMembers of the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., assist in transporting an 840-pound male manatee Dec. 9, 2010. Accompanied by six biologists and two veterinarians, the sea cow is heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico, after suffering minor injuries in a boat strike. Officials from Air Mobility Command and the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing are working together to airlift the mammal to San Juan. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz   
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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

12/10/2010 5:33:40 PM
This is the kind of news that make you smile, especially for us animal lovers. I am proud of all the people involved in giving this magnificent animal a second chance. He will be happy in Puerto Rico; is a beautiful place and the people are great. Guacara will be a great surrogate father!
- Mayra, Florida

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