Tierpark Animal News

Concerns for Lisa

Tierpark Berlin’s female manatee is sick

Our manatees – the gentle, grey, underwater giants of Tierpark Berlin – are extremely popular with visitors. But for the past few days, West Indian manatee Lisa (31) has had staff worried.
The female manatee has shown obvious signs of illness since last weekend. She has needed to come to the surface to breathe once every minute rather than once every three minutes, and swimming in general seems to be a struggle for her. The Pachyderm House was closed to visitors for two days so that Lisa could be properly examined. “A detailed veterinary examination can only be carried out on a manatee after draining a large amount of water from the tank,” explains Tierpark Berlin Zoological Director Nadja Niemann. To prevent Lisa from getting cold during this procedure, the room temperature inside the Pachyderm House had to be raised from 21 to 23°C.

On Monday evening, a sample of Lisa’s blood was taken and she was given antibiotics. The results, which came back Tuesday morning, hinted at kidney damage. Throughout the day on Tuesday, ultrasound scan and X-ray examinations were also carried out at the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). The resulting images showed a number of age-related changes in Lisa’s body, but no specific cause of illness could be identified. There is still a great deal that scientists do not know about manatees. In the whole of Germany there are just six of the remarkable aquatic mammals – three in Berlin and three in Nuremberg. So far, very few health problems have been reported.

“It is always a sad time for us when one of our animals is unwell,” says Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem. “At 31 years of age, Lisa is already fairly elderly for a manatee – their maximum age is between 30 and 45. And weighing almost a tonne, she is not a particularly easy patient.”
The other two manatees living at Tierpark Berlin are males Humboldt (35) and Columbus (28), who both arrived here from Nuremberg in 1994. Lisa, also from Nuremberg, followed one year later.