This week four rehabilitated manatees were returned to their natural waterways by SeaWorld Orlando, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), South Florida Museum, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and Sea to Shore Alliance. The goal with every rescue is to rehabilitate and return the animal as quickly as possible, but young manatee calves take additional time and resources.
All four of these manatees were rescued at young ages and required extended rehabilitation and care. Rescued manatee calves must weigh at least 600 pounds before they are considered strong candidates for return by the FWC. As naive manatees, this weight is optimal to ensure they are less susceptible to cold stress syndrome as they face their first winter in their natural environment.
Rehabilitated Manatees Returned:
- Bambam was rescued on January 18, 2015 as a young calf suffering from severe cold stress. Once stable he was flown to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden as part of the MRP where he spent two years gaining weight and preparing for his return.
- Gale was rescued as a young calf on December 29, 2016, along with her mother, due to cold stress. Unfortunately Gale’s mother succumbed to her injuries shortly after being rescued. Due to her young age, Gale remained in rehabilitation and was transferred to South Florida Museum as part of the MRP where she was able to gain weight and prepare for her return.
- Cassie was rescued on August 26, 2015 as an orphaned calf in Ormond River. When Cassie arrived at SeaWorld Orlando she weighed 66 pounds and required round-the-clock care including bottle feedings every three hours. She has spent the last six months at the Jacksonville Zoo as part of the MRP. At the time of her return Cassie was tipping the scales at 890 pounds.
- Buckeye was rescued as an orphaned calf in Daytona Beach on September 8, 2015. When Buckeye was rescued he weighed 64.5 pounds and was estimated to be only a few weeks old. For the last six months he has been receiving care at the Jacksonville Zoo as part of the MRP. At the time of his return he weighed 688 pounds.
Prior to all four returns, FWC recorded final measurements while Sea to Shore Alliance fitted three of the manatees with a belt that will allow them to monitor their success and track their migration in the wild.
In addition to returning four rehabilitated manatees, SeaWorld Orlando transferred a young rescued manatee to the Jacksonville Zoo. As part of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) facilities are able to work together shifting rehab animals between facilities to ensure future rescues are not turned away. With the Jacksonville Zoo taking this young rescue for continued rehabilitation, SeaWorld Orlando now has more space for future critical rescues.
Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership
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. At the time of his return
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 Florida manatee was recently reclassified from endangered to threatened, but is still at risk from both natural and human 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 floodgates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.
If you see an injured marine animal, you can help by calling the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.
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