On Saturday I got to check “bottle feed a baby manatee” off of my bucket list!
We headed into Iquitos for the night to catch up on emails, and sleep without a mosquito net. While in town, we decided to visit Acobia DWAzoo, a manatee reserve and rescue center about 25 minutes away from the center of Iquitos.
After walking down a short trail while taking in the beautiful scenery, we arrived at a small outdoor center lined with pools of baby manatees! A worker greeted us and told us about the history of Acobia DWAzoo and taught us about manatees. Many manatee adults are killed for food and their babies are taken to be sold (similar to the monkeys). Little do people know, baby manatees not only need a very special diet, but they eat 80-100 kilos of food per day! The special food they are given is a milk replacer and nutritional supplement with 33% fat and 40% protein.
Manatees eat 12 hours a day, so tourists are given the opportunity to hand feed the babies in the large pool! It was such a special opportunity. Their soft, whiskery mouths fold open as they tread water, waiting for their next bite. We got lucky and were allowed to bottle feed the manatees! Doing so was a messy and hilarious task; you have to hold their chin out of the water because they don’t know how to suction. Milk got everywhere and they downed about 20 ounces in 10 seconds.
We sat around for a while, petting our new friends and watching their gentle bodies float through the pools. We talked to a volunteer who told us about an amazing program the rescue center has put together, where they are sending workers into local schools to educate the children. They travel as far as the surrounding Amazon villages to teach about these gentle giants. Apparently it’s working, as 2 manatees have already been saved by children who have found stuck or orphaned manatees, and called the center to rescue them.
We are brainstorming ways for Gilberto to start a similar program. If the Amazon children could learn to love monkeys in the wild and not eat them, we’d be able to secure a future for them that does not include extinction.
How to get to Acobia DWAzoo Manatee Rescue Center
By motokar. Tell the driver Acobia DWAzoo or say “kilometer 4.5 on the carretera.” It’s just past the airport and should cost 10 soles ($4) for 2 people. Getting a motokar back to town is just as easy, there are tons waiting outside, along with many driving by.
There is no admission so please leave a donation to help support this amazing program.