PROFAUNA, FUNPZA, MRNR
In September 1997, a two to four-week old Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus) was intentionally caught in Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake on the South American continent. The confiscated baby was taken to the nearby South Park Zoo. Named "Manati" by her keepers, eleven months later, she was joined by "Ayurami", another baby manatee that was accidentally caught in fishing nets. With no adequate mammal facilities available throughout Venezuela, the young manatees were placed in a 27.5-inch deep watering trough used for the hippopotamus. After a 17-month permitting process, the DWA was granted permission to transport the manatees in November 1999. On December 20, 1999, the two young manatees were placed in a chartered turbo prop plane for the trip to their new home in Dallas TX.
In preparation for construction of a mammal rehabilitation center in Venezuela for future injured and/or abandoned animals, the DWA secured architectural blueprints for the facility and sent equipment such as pre-fabricated tanks, high capacity filters and tanks to Venezuela. With continued disputes between local, state and national agencies as to the site for the facility, the equipment remained in holding in Bolivar until the governing body for Venezuela took possession of plans, supplies and equipment and began negotiations with zoos that were available for the project.
In 2005, another baby manatee was stranded - the first since "Manati" and "Ayurami". Funds were deposited by the DWA in the South Park Zoo (SPZ) account for use as needed in providing the proper care for the animal, as well as future mammals needing assistance. The completed facility now houses this "signature" manatee and an educational program has evolved around the animal and its home. The continued collaborative arrangement between the DWA and the Zoologico Metropolitano del Zulia (previously the SPZ) includes funds, equipment, supplies, technical assistance and staff training.