On Sept. 11, SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) returned Rizzo, a male manatee to the Tomoka River waters in Ormond Beach, Fla., after receiving care and rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando for the past seven months. Rizzo was rescued on Feb. 19, 2014 due to cold stress. At the time of rescue, he weighed 620 pounds, which is approximately 200 pounds under the average weight of a full-grown manatee.

Following his rescue, FWC transported him to SeaWorld Orlando, where he received long-term medical treatment and rehabilitation, including antibiotics, tube feeding and other supportive care. After being medically cleared for his return, Rizzo was transported by SeaWorld's Animal Rescue Team to Ormond Beach, where he was originally found. As of now, Rizzo measures 8.4 feet long and weighs 860 pounds.

So far in 2014, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued eight and returned nine manatees back to their natural environment. In collaboration with the government and other members of accredited stranding networks, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates one of the world’s most respected programs to rescue ill and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitate and return to the waters. SeaWorld animal experts have helped more than 23,000 animals in need - ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned - for more than four decades.

As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees. The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees.  Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at www.manateerescue.org.

The endangered Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

If you see injured marine animal, you can help by calling the FWC hotline at 1(888) 404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.

PHOTOS: © 2014 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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