Rescue, rehabilitation and release made possible through MRP partners and affiliates: Aquarium Encounters, Brevard Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Walt Disney World Resort, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Miami Seaquarium, Save the Manatee Club, SeaWorld Orlando and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) today announced it has successfully released an unprecedented 12 manatees back to their natural habitat in a single day. The animals were released at Blue Spring State Park, a vital warm-water habitat for manatees and one of the largest winter gathering sites for this species in Florida, following their successful rehabilitation. Many of these manatees were rescued as orphaned calves during the ongoing unusual mortality event (UME), which to-date, has left thousands of animals malnourished and starving. Under the expert care of dedicated MRP partners, these manatees spent the past several years rehabilitating at various facilities.
“Over the past several years, we have been called upon to rescue an alarmingly high number of injured, sick and starving manatees off the Florida coastline,” said Monica Ross, Chairman of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership and Director of Manatee Research and Conservation for Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute. “Through the efforts of the MRP partners, I am thrilled that we were able to return the highest number of manatees to their natural environment in a single day.”
The 12 animals were successfully cared for and rehabilitated by various MRP partner organizations. The manatees are:
- Asha: An orphan calf rescued in early 2021, who completed her rehabilitation at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
- Scampi: A small calf who was rescued in 2019 and completed her rehabilitation at Miami Seaquarium, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT (Walt Disney World Resort).
- Ferret: An orphan calf who was rescued in early 2021 and rehabilitated by Miami Seaquarium.
- Finch: An orphan calf rescued in early 2021, who completed his rehabilitation at Miami Seaquarium.
- Artemis: A very small, 51-pound orphan calf rescued in summer 2020. She completed her rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando.
- Bianca: A calf of an injured mother, rescued in spring 2021. She was rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando.
- Inigo: A nine-foot adult male rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in 2021 due to UME-related causes. He completed his rehabilitation at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. After suffering a boat strike soon after his release in August 2022, he was rescued a second time and completed his rehabilitation at both Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and SeaWorld Orlando.
- Lilpeep: An orphan calf rescued in the spring of 2021 and transported to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation, then to Aquarium Encounters for continued rehabilitation. He was returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
- Maximoff: An orphan calf rescued in early 2021 and rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando.
- Alby: A small, 51-pound orphan rescued in 2019. He was rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando, before being transported to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for longer term rehabilitation. He was returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
- Manhattan: An orphan rescued in fall of 2019, initially rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando before being transported to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for full rehabilitation. He was returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
- Swimshady: An orphan rescued in late 2020. He was brought to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation before being transported to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for continued rehabilitation. He was then returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
“Today we want to recognise the outstanding dedication and efforts made by the stranding network partners and the MRP organizations who worked together to rescue and rehabilitate these 12 manatees,” said Andy Garrett, Manatee Rescue Coordinator from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We are excited that those who safely rescued, transported and cared for these manatees are here now as we return them into Blue Spring to start the final phase of their recovery.”
All animals will wear GPS tracking devices to allow researchers the ability to monitor manatee movement and ensure their acclimation to their natural habitat for the next year. The data collected through routine behaviour monitoring is critical to understanding how orphan manatees adapt to the natural habitat and find warm water for winter survival without the skills they should have learned from their mothers. Monitoring will also be critical to the continued understanding of how manatees are adjusting to the fluctuating habitat conditions they need for survival and enable animal care specialists to ensure young animals are learning migration routes and to better treat animals suffering from malnutrition or starvation due to the UME.
About the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP)
The Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) is a group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities dedicated to advancing manatee conservation through collaborative partnership. MRP partners participate in the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and post-release monitoring of manatees. This network of institutions includes acute care facilities that provide treatment to orphaned, sick, and injured manatees with the hope of one day returning them to the wild. MRP researchers collect invaluable data through manatee monitoring efforts to improve the understanding of manatee biology and health. By partnering cooperatively, MRP members work to promote stewardship and financial support of manatee conservation efforts through public education.