Meeting the Manatee Challenge: The Feasibility of Using Crittercam on Wild Manatees
The West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, is currently listed as an endangered species throughout its range. Threats to the subspecies in Florida include watercraft collisions, the potential loss of warm water refuges, exposure to harmful algal blooms, entanglement in fishery gear, habitat degradation, freshwater diversions and withdrawals, and the crushing or isolation caused by water control structures. A study was initiated in 2001 to investigate several of these threats and develop methods to aid in endangered species recovery needs by exploring the feasibility of using Crittercam, an animal-borne imaging and data-collection device, on Florida manatees. While the actual Crittercam technology was appropriate for the goals of this study, the unique morphology of the species and its variable habitat made finding a method of attachment extremely challenging. An appropriate and reliable method of attachment to the manatee is necessary for the successful application of animal-borne imaging data collection. Methods previously used successfully on other species were explored, including various combinations of suction cups and adhesives, a nylon harness and a peduncle belt with a trailing tether. Over a span of several years, captive trials and field testing determined that the peduncle belt with connecting tether was the most appropriate method of attachment. Several iterations of this design were made in order to provide the necessary functionality for ensuring productive research with the Crittercam on wild manatees.
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Document Type: Short Communication
Publication date: 2007-12-01
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