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Manatee Surprise

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So we're tooling around the Georgetown Botanic Garden in Guyana, South America, in a light afternoon shower, looking at flycatchers and jacanas and greater anis, and at some distance I see this boy running back and forth from the edge of a small waterway to a patch of lush grass. He's pulling grass and running back to the canal, just as you would if you...were...feeding...a..pony...or...a....MANATEE!!! AGGGGH!!!

You cannot imagine how excited I was to come into contact once again with manatees. The Science Chimp's every hair stood on end, she pant-hooted and hugged herself. You see, I have an enormous soft spot for manatees, ever since having shared their space at the Amazonian Research Institute in Manaus, Brazil as a lonely college student in 1979. I came to know several individuals housed there under the auspices of Robin Best's Projeto Peixe-boi, and loved them from the first kiss on their smooth rubbery noses. I held tiny orphaned Amazonian freshwater manatees, no bigger than a piglet, in my arms and watched their Brazilian caretakers feed them with baby bottles. Oh my goodness. Manatees. It all came flooding back.So this boy is pulling grass and offering it to the eager manatees, and I got right in and pulled grass with him.Knowing manatees as I do, I knew they love to be spoken to and fondled--they're very sensual animals, endlessly sweet and affectionate. The other members of my group looked at me as if I'd been out in the sun too long when I knelt and hugged them as best I could, given the soggy substrate. Sure, they were in scuzzy water of uncertain origin; sure, they are the oddest and most foreign of beasts, but behind those minuscule eyes and that soft, questing muzzle is the gentlest of souls. Food motivated? You betcha. But there's much more to manatees than meets the eye. Tomorrow: Zick gets down and personal with the manatees.Feed me. Feed me good. But first, love me all up. Rub me down. Kisses would be fine.

If there is a living Schmoo, the Amazonian manatee is it.


AWWWWWWWWWWW!!!.... (...but does Chet Baker know of your divided affections???)

Minuscule an understatement!
We have a Manatee exhibit at our zoo--one of my favorites to stop by for a pause.
And, though I've never touched one, I would believe them to be nothing but the gentlest of souls--their way seems so peaceful and trusting.
Also, their fault?

what an unusual creature, so different and


I did not care that you flew a million miles and trekked up and down mountains, hauling tons of gear and braving heat, humidity, bugs, and snoring cabin mates. It didn't sound that great to me. I didn't even begrudge you the beautiful birds. But,


Right on the bank, being hand-fed and letting you kiss their snoots?!?!?

I am




~Kathi, who may not speak to you for a long, long time over this

Manaus, Brazil? You lived there? What a small, small world. My son went there this summer on a mission trip and is going back again next summer. He loved that area of the world. Come to Florida. We have manatees in our bay you can swim with if you like. But, I still think it is very cool that they let you get so close and love on them like that.

Your Manatee photos take my breath! I've enjoyed all the posts from your trip, but this is beyond words. It is special how they came up to the bank to be hand feed and loved. WOW! What a blessing!

omg I am from florida, I thought they were soley from here!

Lucky, lucky, lucky you!

And those manatees sure are lucky to have befriended that wonderful boy!

Awwww. I've read a few blogs tonight but none of them made me laugh and smile as the Science Chimp pant-hooting and hugging herself over a sweet Manatee I'd love to kiss myself.

I can't wait for more! My daughter (the marine biologist wannabe) will love it, too.

Oooh, I've been waiting for the manatee posts since you mentioned seeing/being with them at some point weeks ago. When you mentioned hugging them, I, like cyberthrush, also wondered if Chet Baker had any idea Mether was off hugging other animals while she was away from home. Can't wait for more!

OMG, what a beautiful experience! You can just tell that manatees are such sweet, gentle creatures. I hope I'm lucky enough to see one in the wild sometime, probably in Florida. :-)

Wowie wow wow wow!!!!! You live an amazing life, Ms. Zick. Nice pant hoots, too.

Word Verific: Mings

"Sometimes I see me as an old manatee, heading south as the waters grow colder..." I sang it in my head as I read your post Julie! Such sweet, sweet creatures. :c)

I always think about how desperate for a woman those old sailors had to have been to see manatees and imagine mermaids. Although I do believe that they are absolutely LOVELY in their own way. What do they smell like? Do they have grassy breath like cows from their diets or do they smell more marine? Do their whiskers tickle when you kiss them? Can't wait for more!

Dear Julie,
Oh my goodness what a sweet heart!
I remember seeing them in Florida years ago.
Manatee kisses...gentle giants.

There's something familiar in that beast's face.

Lucky, lucky you. Can't wait to read the next blog.

We over use words until they are almost meaningless, however,
Waiting with baited breath for tomorrows post.

Suweeeeet! Impressive, even from here in Manatee central.

*kisses to manatee!*

So Awesome ! Where are the picture from?

How special for you Julie! So do they just live wild there in the botanical gardens, or does someone take care of them?

I love them they are so cute

where is this? i wanna visit them! :)

Ed, Leland, Ruthie: These are tame manatees, living in a zoo/park situation, quite out of their normal habitat. I believe they are fed, although they have extensive waterways within the park where they can feed. The park is in Georgetown, Guyana, on the northern coast of South America. These are Amazonian freshwater manatees, a different species from the Caribbean manatee, which tolerates salt water. You can't do what I did with wild manatees, I don't think, although I'd be surprised if some Florida animals who come into contact with people weren't tame.

What a fantastic post! Wow! Such a delightful surprise for you, considering your background with them! I know it was a thrill to be so close again. My husband swam with manatees once in FL and it was a thrilling experience for him.


Cool, cool, cool beyond belief! My first visit to your blog and I am tickled pink to see your post on manatees.

I think they're just as cute as those black & white cows I pass here in TX screaming MOOOOO every time =D They're just so precious! Plus they write for Family Guy you know, hehe

What an amazing experience to have cuddled one of these creatures when it was small enough to hold! Your words express it so well, the impact it had on your heart. What a thrill to be so close, both then and in Guyana.

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