In November 2009, a manatee was sighted in Spanish Wells harbour, North Eleuthera. Photographs of her distinctive scar patterns were provided to the US Geological Survey’s (USGS) Sirenia Project who maintain the Manatee Individual Photo-identification System. A photographic match was found to an individual called "Rita" (MI-028), an adult female known to be residing in south Florida since 1988. Periodic sightings through January 2008 revealed Rita had had at least seven calves. Florida manatees occasionally wander into offshore waters and some are lucky enough, like Rita, to find their way to The Bahamas.
Shortly after arriving in Spanish Wells, marine mammal care staff from Dolphin Cay (Atlantis Resort) conducted several health assessments of Rita. They determined through ultrasound that she was pregnant and advised locals to provision her with food and water to ensure that she remained well-nourished throughout her pregnancy. In June 2010, she gave birth to a female calf, who locals named Georgie. Rita and Georgie became very popular amongst Spanish Wells residents so much so that Desiree Messier launched Rita’s own Facebook page which now has over 800 members.
|Rita and newborn Georgie in Spanish Wells (photo courtesy of Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network)|
|Rita and Georgie at Dolphin Cay, Atlantis|