SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team returned four rescued and rehabilitated manatees back to their natural water ways in a multi-organisation effort led by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), along with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and Miami Seaquarium.
Two of the animals were particularly special, such as the 500th manatee rescued by the park as well as a manatee that was rescued two years ago as a tiny, 55kg orphan and now weighs a whopping 320kg – that’s almost the weight of a Vespa Scooter.
The manatees were returned near the warm water outfall of Port St. John power plant in Brevard County. The site was chosen to provide them with a warm water site during the current cold snap. There, the inexperienced animals can link up with established wild manatees, also seeking refuge from chilly waters.
The reason manatees are returned during cooler weather is because other wild manatees naturally congregate in specific warm water sources during these periods. Doing this allows the new animals to acclimate to a larger group, from which they can learn migratory patterns once the weather warms up. It also allows the newly-released manatees to familiarize themselves with a specific warm water site to return to the next time temperatures cool down.
SeaWorld Orlando and the other Florida zoological facilities work closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to determine when a manatee is ready to be returned as well as the proper time and location for the return to take place.
About the manatees rescued by SeaWorld:
- Quincentariat - this juvenile male manatee was rescued on 10th May 2014 from the Banana River in Cape Canaveral due to cold stress. He was the 500th manatee rescued by the SeaWorld Orlando Animal Rescue Team. At the time of rescue he weighed 130kg, measuring 6 feet in length. The healthy manatee now weighs over 333kg, measuring more than 8 feet long.
- Shirley - the orphan female calf was rescued on 28th January 2014 from the De Soto Canal in Brevard County. At the time of rescue she weighed 55kg and measured 4 feet 8 inches in length. The healthy and independent manatee now weighs 320kg and measures 7 feet 8 inches long.
Additional rehabilitated manatees returned:
- Hammock - a young male patient named “Hammock” was rescued in March of 2014 from Indian River as an orphan, and will now receive a second chance at life in the wild after nearly two years of rehabilitation at the Manatee Hospital at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.
- Abigail - in March 2013, Abigail was rescued from the Indian River system near Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida. Suffering from cold stress, Abigail received critical care at Sea World Orlando and then was transferred to Cincinnati Zoo for rehabilitation. Then, in October of 2015, Abigail arrived at Miami Seaquarium to become acclimated to the natural diet and brackish water found in the region. She is estimated to weigh approximately 700-800 pounds and estimated to be between 3-5 years old.