Manatee Julieta brutally attacked and killed in Colombia

Manatee under water, photo: Dave Long Media via Canva
Manatee under water, photo: Dave Long Media via Canva

The brutal killing of the rehabilitated manatee Julieta in the north of Colombia has caused outrage in the country.  

Julieta had been rehabilitated and released on July 7th but was killed a week later by a group of fishermen in the city of Santa Marta.

The fishermen from the Tasajera district chased Julieta when they spotted her. She was caught, attacked with sticks and machetes, and her mouth was tied so she could not breathe.

Corpomag, the regional entity in charge of environmental activities in Santa Marta, was called by other fishermen who condemned what was happening to Julieta.

Veterinarians arrived at the place where Julieta had been cornered, cut and beaten and, after examination, concluded that the manatee could not be saved.  

Julieta had deep cuts of fifteen centimetres, and one eye was bleeding. She was also attacked with a harpoon in the chest area. Julieta died at the scene.

Veterinarians and the technical team transported Julieta to the medical center in Rodadero Aquarium, where an autopsy was done.

An investigation had started into the fishermen who killed Julieta.

About Julieta
Julieta was a 3.5-meter-long manatee and weighed 450 kilograms. On June 5th, 2021, she was accidentally caught in a fishnet in Tayrona National Park. 

She was taken in by Corpomag, with help from the Omacha Foundation and the Center for Manatee Conservation (CCM). 

For one month, Julieta was kept under close watch by veterinarians. After evaluating her health, it was decided that she was ready to be released back into the wild. 

The manatee was freed into the Caribbean Sea close to Cienaga, in Magdalena, and a group of fishermen helped in the rehabilitation process.

When wild animals are released back into their habitat, scientists place satellite tracking devices on their necks or in their skin. This helps them determine if the rehabilitation and release of an animal was successful or not. 

In Julieta’s case, Corpomag placed a collar on her neck with the tracker and contact information in case of an emergency. Sadly, only a week after her release, they were called about her brutal killing.

Manatees are a vulnerable species
Julieta was a Caribbean manatee (Trichechus manatus), currently registered as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

They are considered nature’s architects because they change their environment and create microenvironments for smaller species due to their size. 

It is estimated that manatees eat around 10% of their weight in ocean plants, which, in Julieta’s case, was about 45 kilograms. 

Without the help of manatees, ocean plants like the common water hyacinth, an invasive species, can grow excessively and limit water oxygenation. 

Manatees are also considered health indicators of the ecosystem. Their presence means there are optimal conditions in the water. 

When they no longer appear, this might mean oxygen levels in the water are not optimal and can affect fish, coral or crustacean populations.

Caribbean manatees are highly in danger in Colombia because they are sought after by locals when spotted. Many times, local fishermen do not know that they are endangered and should be protected. 

The habitat of manatees is also decreasing due to industrial development in the country. Manatees live in estuaries and mangroves. Boats that frequently pass through these areas damage plants and animals.

Strengthening conservation efforts
Governmental organizations are working together to strengthen conservation efforts in Colombia. This is a relatively new topic in the country.

There was an ongoing war in the jungles of Colombia, where dangerous and armed groups lived. Five years ago, a peace treaty was signed.

Since the peace treaty was signed, many conservation projects were set up, and wildlife groups have found more opportunities to save and teach locals about wild animal welfare.

This story has been written by Sara Castano Correa, who lives in Colombia. The Animal Reader is an animal news website and is always looking for journalists who want to contribute stories about animal welfare and animal rights in their country.

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