By: W Zeiller
152 pages, 110 illus, 1 tab, 1 map.
This work is about the first manatee ever conceived and born in captivity. The pregnancy was long (about 13 months), the mother was huge (over 900 pounds), and baby Lorelei was regarded by Zeiller and his coworkers at the Miami Seaquarium as a truly blessed event. Even one addition to the dwindling number of this endangered species was reason to rejoice. Zeiller's knowledge of the history and plight of this docile sea mammal is based on his work at the Seaquarium, where he helped develop the only extant breeding herd of manatees (including Lorelei's parents, Romeo and Juliet), the only gene pool of the animal in captivity at that time. With more than 100 photographs that help to document his personal experiences, Zeiller describes "mercy" missions with the Mermaid Rescue Squad to liberate animals caught in drainage ditches or to care for animals injured by boat propellers. He relates his efforts and adventures with Captain Jacques Cousteau to return "Sewer Sam" to the freedom of Crystal River. In uncomplicated language he presents scientific information on the habitat, distribution, physiology, and feeding and breeding habits of the manatee and its relatives. Manatees are nearing extinction not because of public insensitivity, he believes, but because of a lack of knowledge. His intention throughout the book is to increase public awareness of the crises. "Destroying or saving 60,000,000 years of evolution is in our hands", he writes. And, from the Epilogue: "We have named Lorelei's son (Juliet's grandson) Hugh."
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