The exhaustive efforts of four manatee rescue and rehabilitation organizations came to fruition on Nov. 29 with the release of three healthy manatees in Key Colony Beach.
Rescued from Marathon and Duck Key, all three male manatees underwent significant treatment and rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando after collaborative rescue efforts by Dolphin Research Center, Aquarium Encounters and FWC’s manatee rescue teams along with many concerned community volunteers.
Rescued April 19 from grass flats off Marathon’s 63rd Street Ocean, one animal suffered skull fractures when hit in the head by a propeller. Transported with an extremely guarded prognosis, the animal made an incredible recovery after having bone fragments removed, along with antibiotics and nutritional support. It reached a weight of 1,200 pounds upon release.
A second severely emaciated animal was rescued from Duck Key on June 10. Named “ManaKey,” the eight-foot animal weighed only 460 pounds when first rescued – healthy manatees should weigh roughly 100 pounds per foot. A five-and-a-half month rehab period with treatment for gastric issues and nutritional support resulted in a weight gain of 545 pounds as the animal attained a release weight of 1,005 pounds.
Named “Duval,” the third animal was rescued from a Marathon residential canal on July 6. The underweight sea cow was treated for inflammatory changes in his blood as well as dehydration and potential constipation, reaching a release weight of 1,175 pounds.
A waiting crowd cheered as crews carried all three manatees back to the water behind Key Colony Beach’s city hall on Tuesday afternoon.
“Three animals in the same day – there’s nothing better,” said DRC veterinarian Dr. Scott Gearhart. “To take in an animal that needs your help and to see them released is fantastic.”
“We share the waterways with these animals,” he cautioned. “They’re very slow moving and they get into stuff, and you really need to be careful about what your activity is on the water.”
All reports of injured or stranded manatees should be directed to 888-404-FWCC. When healthy, ribs and other bones should not be visible on manatees, and stranded animals should never be returned to the ocean before evaluation and approval by licensed organizations.