SeaWorld Returns Mother-Daughter Manatee Pair to Florida Waters After Year of Rehabilitation

Today, SeaWorld Orlando successfully returned Reckless and Churro, a mother and calf manatee duo, to Broward County in Florida after more than a year of incredible rehabilitation at its Rescue Center. The rehabilitation work included 12 lifesaving procedures and more than 17,000 hours of specialized care.

Reckless and Churro were rescued in Florida in May 2022 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and SeaWorld after Reckless suffered a catastrophic boat strike. That strike left her with a shattered shoulder and exposure of deep muscle and tissue that put her in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. Her calf, Churro, had fresh umbilical cord attached when she came in with her mother, and she appeared to be no more than 1-2 days old.

Over the last 20 extensive months and through 12 lifesaving procedures, the SeaWorld veterinary team took extraordinary measures to keep Reckless and Churro together, ensuring the continuation of the parent-child bond necessary for an eventual joint-return to their natural habitat. Given Reckless’ extensive injuries, the mother-daughter pair required over 17,000 hours of specialized care to keep them both healthy throughout the intensive rehabilitation process. Staying with mom was critical for Churro’s development as manatee calves depend on their mothers for nutrition and to learn survival skills such as finding food, avoiding predators, and seeking out warm water areas during cold-stunned season.

“Reckless had a very poor prognosis upon arrival at SeaWorld, but it was clear from the beginning that the mother and calf pair were fighters, and our veterinary team was determined to give them another shot at life,” said Dr. Stacy DiRocco, senior veterinarian at SeaWorld Orlando. “Our extensive veterinary care for Reckless included amputation of her pectoral flipper, multiple surgeries to battle infection and promote healing, radiographs, cold laser therapy, gastroscopy and intensive medical care to stabilize and overcome her injuries – and she proved resilient through it all.”

Reckless and Churro were fitted with a unique tracking belt to ensure their continued health in their natural habitat. This intel is critical given that manatee populations continue to diminish to dangerously low levels as a result of an unusual mortality event (UME).

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has an unwavering commitment to manatee conservation,” said Andy Garrett, Statewide Manatee Stranding Coordinator at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “SeaWorld Orlando’s successful rehabilitation of Reckless and Churro enables two healthy female manatees to return to the wild. This partnership and collaboration play a crucial role in achieving this important conservation goal.”

SeaWorld Orlando has the largest manatee rescue operation in the U.S., and one of only three critical care centers. The Rescue Center can care for up to 60 manatees at a time, giving it the largest capacity in the state of Florida and in the U.S.  Its facilities have a wide range of critical care amenities including lifting floors, top-of-the-line therapeutic and diagnostic equipment, and expert veterinary staff to rehabilitate manatees in need. SeaWorld continues to help amidst the ongoing unusual mortality event (UME), coming to the aid of more than 1,300 manatees in peril to date.

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