The aim of this work was to analyze whether there are differences between the development pattern of Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus) calves born in captivity and those rescued and kept under rehabilitation. Biometrics data were collected from 1990 to 2010 from 38 calves, 29 of which still had the remnants of the umbilical cord and had been rescued from the Brazilian northeastern coastline (Group I), and nine individuals that were born in captivity and remained with their mothers (Group II). Among the measures obtained through biometry, the total length and weight of the animal were recorded. Given that the breastfeeding of calves occurs approximately until the age of 2 yr, data obtained until the 24th month of life of each individual were evaluated. An average increase in weight of 53.50 ± 38.54 kg (mean ± standard deviation [SD]) was detected in Group I and a gain of 106.87 ± 47.21 kg (mean ± SD) in Group II. From months 13 to 24, no significant difference in the weight increment was observed. A similar pattern occurred with regard to the increase in the overall length during the first year, where animals from Group I grew 34.81 ± 17.94 cm (mean ± SD) and from Group II grew 83.83 ± 28.21 cm, a statistically significant difference. The growth was not significantly different from 13 to 24 mo. The results found in this study identified the need for a review of the nutritional diet offered to orphaned calves rescued and kept in captivity. The results also support the need for a better adequacy of facilities for these animals as a way to encourage the management strategies adopted for manatee calves maintained in captivity.
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