A mother manatee found tangled in netting and rescued off the Key Largo waters earlier in the year is back to full strength and swimming freely in the waters with her calf. 

Volunteers from various agencies met at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on July 15 to let the mom, Kangaroo, and its baby, Joey, into the waters. Spectators gathered on two docks at the park’s boat launch as they watched the offloading and freeing of the manatees. 

On Feb. 26, staff and volunteers from Dolphin Research Center, Florida Fish & Wildlife and Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder were called to assist a female manatee with a dependent male calf near the Pilot House restaurant. Upon arrival, it was found that the mother’s pectoral flippers were badly entangled in fishing line and net wrapped around her left flipper. 

Netting was embedded so tightly that it actually broke the ulna and radius bones in the manatee’s flipper, according to Maya Rodriguez, veterinarian at Miami Seaquarium. Following the rescue, the mother manatee was transported to Miami Seaquarium for treatment and rehabilitation. The calf was also transported so it could continue to nurse. 

“Kangaroo’s left flipper had a lot of netting that we took off immediately,” Rodriguez said. “We were hopeful that she wouldn’t lose it with both the radius and ulna broken in two places. They nurse right underneath the armpit. That’s the flipper we’re always careful with, but she healed great.”

Rodriguez added that the right flipper needed more attention than the left due to some deeply-embedded monofilament. Rodriguez said the material had been there for years before being rescued. It took three procedures and seven hours of work to dig the monofilament all out. 

“The flipper looks swollen because it’s fibrous, scar tissue. It’s not going to go down any more,” Rodriguez said. 

Kangaroo’s movements improved through the rehab process as she was able to present both teats, nurse her calf and an orphan and grab a head of lettuce. Watching her swim away into the waters, Rodriguez said, “she looked great.”


Dolphin Research Center’s Manatee Rescue Team, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responders, Aquarium Encounters and Miami Seaquarium assisted in the rescue and release. 

Kangaroo, left, and Joey, right, get a final inspection and measuring by staff from Miami Seaquarium before they’re set free into the waters from a boat launch at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on July 15.
Mother manatee, Kangaroo, and calf, Joey, swim freely into the water upon being set free from a boat launch at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on July 15.

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