Moment a rare manatee gives birth to calf in the pool at Dutch zoo is captured in stunning footage
This is the moment a rare West Indian manatee was born at a zoo in the Netherlands.
Extraordinary footage shows the calf’s arrival at 9.18am yesterday at Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, in the Netherlands.
The birth takes the number of the vulnerable animals in European zoos up to 39.
In the video, the calf can be seen emerging from its mother’s body into the pool, before swiftly rising to the surface to take a breath.
A West Indian manatee is born at Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands on December 30
It then dives down to its mother with underwater footage showing it staying close to her as it adjusts to its new habitat, which mimics the mangrove forests of Central America.
Burgers’ Zoo spokesman Bas Lukkenaar said: ‘The birth went very smoothly this morning. The mother is experienced.
‘She already had another calf and this is her second calf. The calf appears quite large at birth.
‘It also appears very healthy because it almost immediately surfaced in order to breathe.
‘And it almost started immediately to search for mother’s mammaries in order to drink milk.’
Twenty-four of the 39 manatees in European zoos are males, known as bulls, so keepers involved in the species breeding programme hope that the new calf will turn out to be female when closer checks are carried out.
The calf is born and immediately takes to the water, swimming along with its mother
The gestation period for the manatees is about 12 months. They are mammals and the calves drink milk from their mother’s nipples located below each flippers.
Manatees usually have one young, although twins also occur.
Calves quickly become strong swimmers, staying close to their mothers initially before venturing away to explore as they gets older.
West Indian manatees are sometimes called ‘sea cows’ because of their herbivorous diet, according to The National Wildlife Federation.
In the wild they eat from four to nine per cent of their body weight a day – which can total around 32 pounds of food – including cordgrass, turtle grass, eelgrass, water hyacinth and hydrilla.
The main food for the two adult manatees at Royal Burgers’ Zoo is endive and they eat more than 40lbs each per day.
The father and mother together with the newborn West Indian manatee calf
They also eat other vegetables including pak choi, celery, alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, chicory, lettuce, Swiss chard and kale.
The adult bull at the Arnhem zoo is almost 20 years old, while the mother is almost 8.5 years old.
In the wild, West Indian manatees, which like slow-moving shallow waters, can be found in coastal and inland waterways in Central America and sometimes along the northern South American coast, according to MarineBio.
Nearer to the United States, these gentle slow-moving creatures can be found in Florida during the winter time but in the summer can also be spotted in Alabama and Virginia.
The water-born mammals are classed as ‘vulnerable’ by charity The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which keeps a ‘red list’ of species that may soon become extinct.
This is because manatees come up to the surface to breathe, putting them at risk of fatal injuries from motorboat propellers and from being caught in fishing nets.
The family of manatees swims around in the zoo pool. Burgers’ Zoo spokesman Bas Lukkenaar said the birth went ‘very smoothly’
Manatees’ health can also be damaged by unclean waters.
More than 1,000 manatees died in Florida this year due to pollution-fuelled algae blooms and more than half occurred in the northern Indian River Lagoon.
Earlier this month three conservations groups filed a formal notice to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if it doesn’t take steps to protect manatees from water pollution in Florida.
These majestic creatures were found to starve to death due to the toxic algae destroying sea grass that the animals rely on for food.
It is estimated there are now at least 13,000 West Indian manatees across the areas they habitat, with more than 6,500 located in the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.