Holy Cow! What a Calf
Manatee young are called calves. And it's a big event when a manatee calf is born, because manatee reproduction is a slow process. The gestation period for a manatee is about eleven to thirteen months.
Manatee births don't happen very often. Male manatees are not sexually mature until they are about nine years old, and female manatees do not start to reproduce until they are four or five years old. Once they are mature, female manatees only have calves about once every two to five years.
Babies are Big Too
Mother manatees nurse their young for a long period, and a calf may remain dependent on its mother for up to two years. The female manatee assumes total responsibility for raising the calf. The calf nurses from nipples located behind the mother's flippers and begins to eat plants a few weeks after birth. Nursing takes place under water.
Counting the Blue Spring Calves:
Ranger Wayne carefully counts and records the number of calves each year at Blue Spring. These are his calf counts since 1998.
Monitoring the calf numbers is really important for several reasons. First, manatee reproduction is a slow process, and manatee births are not an everyday event, so researchers closely watch the number of calves. Second, manatee births are even more important because manatees are an endangered species, and so every new birth makes a differenceto the long term future of the species. For the manatee, births are are the counterpart of deaths, and this is a delicate balance.
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