words + photos by John Lamkin
Dani has a face that only a mother could love, but he doesn’t have a mother – he’s an orphan. Dani is a manatee, sometimes referred to as a sea cow. I guess if he had a mother she would think he was beautiful. The horny seafarers of earlier times thought manatees were beautiful. When seen in the ocean from a distance, they were mistaken for mermaids or sirens.
Dani was found by a couple of boys, four days old with an injured flipper – caught in the mangrove roots. He was left an orphan, unable to leave this annual birthing lagoon with the other manatees. The lagoon lies just off the Caribbean Bay of Chetumal in the south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The villagers took him to Chetumal to have his wounds attended. Once treated, the state wildlife department decided to return Dani to the lagoon and put him in the care of the village until he recuperated. Well enough to swim, he was released to return to his manatee family, but he didn’t want to go.