A baby manatee is recovering nicely after being rescued by a young volunteer last year.
Mitchell Thomas, 19, found the too-cute-for-words mammal while volunteering for Wildtracks Manatee and Primate Rehabilitation in Belize.
“This little man was found in the waters of Belize struggling to stay at the surface after his mother was presumably killed by a boat,” Thomas wrote on Imgur. “An adult manatee was found dead nearby.”
Since Thomas was the one responsible for saving the little guy, the conservation and research non-profit named the manatee Mitchell.
Mitch the manatee was taken to the rehabilitation center on June 30, where he was wrapped in a wet t-shirt and doused with water to keep his skin from drying out.
“When he first was placed in the back of the truck, I realized what awful shape he was in,” Thomas told BuzzFeed News. “His body seized and thrashed every time he tried to take a breath. Each breath was a wheezy gasp. He was in a lot of pain, probably from a bruised rib or shoulder.”
Mitch was in pretty bad shape so Thomas made sure that his new friend had as much help as possible.
“It was clear he was going to need someone to support him at all hours of the day,” he said. “I timed his breaths on the way back to Wildtracks and was the first person to hop into the intensive care pool with him. He was lowered into the water and all the volunteers huddled around to see what would happen. He immediately struggled to stay at the surface and I had to hold him up to allow him to breathe.”
Over the course of the next week, there was someone to monitor and support Mitch 24 hours a day.
“It was as if every breath he was terrified he was going to take in water,” Thomas said. “We thought perhaps he had nearly drowned and was afraid it would happen again. I was very concerned he wouldn’t make it through the first night. He proved to be a real fighter though! All the volunteers took turns; one person sitting in the water and one person sitting out of the water to time his breaths and get help if needed. I remember sitting in the pool with him in the chilly water in the dark at 3 am and thinking there was no where else I would rather be.”
How’s this for adorable overload? Mitch loves sucking on people’s fingers or rest on the backs of their knees.
“Without his mother, I think he was just searching for the interaction and attention he would have been receiving from her,” Thomas said. “As soon as someone entered the water he stayed right near them. He would maintain constant contact with you if you moved around the pool.”
Mitch now shares the pool with another rescued calf, bonding and getting to know each other. Thomas just loves the idea of that.
“It’s great knowing that he will one day be returned to the wild where he belongs,” he said.
You can donate to Wildtracks here.