When it comes to adorable animal babies, few species are quite as cute as Amazonian river manatees -- or as vulnerable to environmental threats. Each year, countless manatee calfs are left orphaned after their mothers are either killed by poachers or starved due to rampent overfishing in their river habitat. But fortunately for those defenseless youngsters lucky enough to find rescue, a helping hand is never too far out of reach.
Late last week, fishermen in the Amazon discovered this 2 month-old baby manatee helplessly lingering nearby the body of its mother, likely the victim of poachers, and contacted Friends of the Manatee (AMPA) a conservationist group devoted to protecting the species. Last year, the group help save more than a dozen orphaned manatees; this is their first for 2012, reports aCritica.Working in conjunction with the National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPE), rescuers from AMPA were able to nurse the animal back to health after it had become malnourished without its mother's milk. Later, the 30 inch, 25 pound manatee calf will be transfered to an aquatics facility where it will remain until it's mature enough to be returned into the wild.
Amazonian manatees have been protected under Brazilian law since 1967, and are listed as a 'vulnerable' species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature -- but nevertheless, a number of serious threats persist. Although traditionally manatees have been hunted for food in the Amazon, more recently fishermen have been known to kill the animals for use as bait, and to limit competition for an often scarce stock of fish.