Well-known as docile and slow-moving creatures, manatees, also called sea-cows give the impression of peace and kindness and one can hardly imagine they can even be disturbed. They actually have few natural predators which explains their slow pace behavior. However, over the past decades, humans have become a real threat to manatees until the point that, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed them as vulnerable species.
Colombia is the home of one of the most threatened manatees species. The subspecies of the West Indian manatees: the Caribbean manatee that lives in different areas of the Colombian Caribbean Region. The most recent case of Julieta, a 3.35 meters and 450 kilograms Caribbean manatee killed by fishermen in Tasajera in Ciénaga Grande has infuriated Colombian animal welfare organisations and the public opinion in general.
Why is this case so dramatic?
On June 5, the Corporación Autónoma Regional del Magdalena (CORPAMAG), the government entity in charge of the sustainable management of natural resources in the Magdalena region, rescued a manatee that was trapped in the fishermen’s nets in the Tayrona Natural Park. That was Julieta.
Julieta was immediately transferred to a special rehabilitation center, where a team of experts from CORPAMAG and Parques Nacionales Naturales worked on her recovery for several weeks. Under the scientific advice of the Omacha Foundation and the Center for the Conservation of Manatees of the Caribbean (CCM), organisations that have almost 30 years of experience in manatee’s rehabilitation programs, the team finally freed the mammal in the Caribbean sea on July 7.
Unfortunately, this week the country received very shocking news: Julieta was killed. Unscrupulous fishermen of the area kidnapped and tortured her. By the time CORPAMAG arrived to the spot, the animal was almost dead and it passed away while being transported to the rescue center. CORPAMAG found the female manatee with one bleeding eye, with wounds on her body 15 centimeters deep and her side pierced by a harpoon.
This is not an isolated case, lifeless manatees have been found in the past by the Colombian authorities and today the species is disappearing in the country. Even though in Colombia, manatees are legally protected by the law 17 de 1981, the law is not always enforced, and sadly illegal manatee hunting is still a reality. CORPAMAG has been raising awareness among the society of the importance of protecting this vulnerable species. The organisation launched a campaign right after releasing the animal to call on boats to reduce the speed to avoid accidents and on fishermen to be careful so Julieta would not fall into their nets.
SOS Animals Colombia and its partner organisations reject the brutal killing of the manatee, a typical example of deliberate cruelty against animals. According to the IUCN, this species of manatee faces “a high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future” which makes the case of Julieta more appalling. SAC urges the Colombian authorities to render justice for Julieta and calls on the international community to help make sure this type of acts against marine wildlife never happens again.