SINGAPORE - Two of the River Safari's 14 manatees, Kai and Junior, will be headed on a one-way trip to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean as part of the world's first manatee repopulation programme.
The National Park of Guadeloupe aims to reintroduce the Antillean manatee, which has been extinct in the Caribbean island region since the beginning of the last century due to excessive hunting, through a breeding programme with a initial group of 15 manatees from various zoological institutions.
Kai and Junior's flight will be within the next few weeks, though an exact date has not been set yet, and is likely to take more than 30 hours with several pit stops.
They will be placed in open top travelling crates lined with thick sponge to ensure their comfort throughout the flight, which will also absorb water which has to be periodically sprayed on the manatees to keep their skin moist.
They will be accompanied by an entourage which includes veterinarians from the National Park of Guadeloupe, and two aquarists from River Safari.
Manatees, whose numbers have gone down over the last century, are currently listed as "vulnerable" in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
"We have been very successful in breeding manatees in our care for the past 20 years," said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, deputy chief executive officer and chief life sciences officer for Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
"We are very happy that this success will now contribute to restocking part of the species' historic range in the Caribbean where it has been extinct for the past century. Projects like this is one of many ways that we are contributing to the survival of species in the wild."