A Singapore aquarium has sent two male manatees to the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe for what it says is the world's first repopulation program for the species.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore said the manatees, Junior and Kai, were chosen as they have reached sexual maturity and are best friends because of their similar age. Kai was born on Oct. 8, 2009, and Junior on Feb. 2, 2010.
The pair were sedated and set off for their 34-hour journey on Monday in crates lined with sponge. They will be sprayed with water during their trip to keep their skin moist.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore said they will be the first arrivals at the protected bay of Grand Cul-de-sac Marin, where the National Park of Guadeloupe is heading a repopulation project.
Listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, manatees have seen their numbers decline in the last century because of hunting, net entrapment and collisions with motorboats, Wildlife Reserves Singapore said.
The West Indian manatee species has been extinct in Guadeloupe's waters since the early 20th century due to hunting, it added. The program aims to release the future offspring from the 15 manatees in the project into the wild.