A West Indian manatee Trichechus manatus, for reasons which doubtless seemed good to him at the time, took a 700 mile (1127 kilometers) swim up the Mississippi to the vicinity of the city of Memphis.
Busybody do-gooders, experts, and officials of all kinds (as they always do these days whenever an unusual form of wildlife appears) hurried to the scene to “rescue,” i.e., to interfere with, shoot with tranquilizer guns, and typically kill-with-kindness, the hapless visitor. In this case, so far, however, the manatee has had the last laugh. He simply submerged, and vanished from view, leaving the experts up the river.
MEMPHIS, Tennessee A meandering manatee who took an unheard of swim 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) up the Mississippi River played hide and seek Thursday with a rescue team led by marine mammal specialists from Florida.
The manatee, believed to be 7 to 8 feet (2.10 to 2.40 meters) long and weighing 800 to 1,000 pounds (360 to 450 kilograms), has been hanging around since at least Sunday in a river chute along the downtown Memphis riverfront.
The rescue team, made up of marine biologists, wildlife agents, police officers and Coast Guard personnel, began searching the 3-mile (5-kilometer) chute, called the Wolf River Harbor, early Thursday but had not spotted the manatee by afternoon.
Pedro Ramos, a team leader from the marine amusement park SeaWorld of Orlando, Florida, said he was unsure how long the manatee could survive in the 60-degree (15 Celsius) water or how long the searchers would look for it.
“This is something very unique,” Ramos said. “It’s never been recorded before this far up the Mississippi.”
Manatees, an endangered species, are generally found along the southern U.S. coast, though they do stray farther north along the eastern seaboard during the summer. They are docile, warm water animals.
Ramos said his team would search through Friday and then re-evaluate its plans. The manatee was spotted late Wednesday afternoon floating near the bank in the he bank in the dark, brown water.
“We can’t just stay up here indefinitely,” he said. “As long as he’s eating he could probably survive for a few days. It will really depend on the water temperature.”
In early August, another manatee travelled up the Hudson as far as Westchester County.