manatees: trichechus manatus being watched by tourists. sw allow caye, belize

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Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary

Caye Caulker

About 19 miles southwest of Caye Caulker, the vast Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary spans nearly 9000 acres, including Swallow Caye and some parts of nearby Drowned Caye. Here the ocean floor is covered with turtle-grass beds, which support a small population of West Indian manatees.

After tireless efforts on the part of conservationists and guides, a wildlife sanctuary was established here in 2002. Swimming with manatees is forbidden by the Belizean authorities, and education programs dissuade boat operators from using their motors near the manatees and from speeding through the area (propeller injuries are one of the chief causes of manatee deaths). There is a permanent caretaker in these waters, although some complain that this is not enough to adequately enforce regulations.

Patient visitors are usually rewarded with several sightings of breaching and feeding manatees, often including a mother and calf swimming together.

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