On Friday 1 November, rescue teams from SeaWorld Orlando and Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the National Marine Mammal Foundation, responded to the call to help a distressed manatee on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and transport the animal to SeaWorld for additional specialised care.
The sub-adult female manatee was found in an enclosed lagoon and was not able to find its way back to the ocean. Weighing 856 pounds with a length of 261 cm, the manatee was suffering from minor skin abrasions and was slightly underweight. She was relocated to SeaWorld Orlando where she was given a full health assessment by the SeaWorld veterinary team, followed by a period of rehabilitation before she is returned to the wild.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Florida Manatee Recovery Lead Teresa Calleson said, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is extremely appreciative of the efforts of SeaWorld, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, and the other conservation partners from South Carolina to Florida who stepped up quickly to help this young female manatee in need. As a result of their efforts, this manatee will get a second chance to contribute to the wild population following rehabilitation.”
SeaWorld and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute are members of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) and worked with the other organisations to help rescue the manatee. 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 is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, entrapment and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.