Featured Image Credit: Jacksonville Zoo
In recent days, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens gained two new members to their Manatee Critical Care Center, which opened earlier this year. Both “sea cows” needed some more care and attention before meeting the Florida Fish & Wildlife standards of being released, so Jacksonville Zoo stepped in to help.
The two manatees, named Cassie and Buckeye, were rescued by members of the FWC and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Marine Mammal Response Team. They were then transported to SeaWorld Orlando where they received the extensive care that they needed. The manatees required bottle feeding and 24-hour care.
Buckeye weighed only 63 pounds when rescued while Cassie weighed just 3 lbs more at 66 lbs. To put it in perspective, fully grown manatees can reach up to 2,000 pounds! They are now thriving with Cassie at 775 pounds and Buckeye at 625 pounds. They will continue to be monitored until they are ready to be released.
Cassie and Buckeye were the care center’s first manatee patients! There are only 4 similar facilities in the state of Florida. Other cities in Florida that have like centers are Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. The Jacksonville care center was completed just this year. The center includes two large tanks, one includes a lift-floor to make it safer and easier for medical treatment. The other tank has a window for guest viewing.
The $2.1 million center was funded by private individuals that recognized the need for a care center in this region. The State of Florida also issued a grant for $500,000. The center will ideally hold 5-6 manatees at once, depending on the circumstances.
“Welcoming Cassie and Buckeye to our center is a huge, exciting milestone in Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ history of manatee conservation,” said Craig Miller, the Zoo’s Curator of Mammals. “Our Critical Care Center reaffirms our commitment to manatees, giving us the capability to rescue, rehabilitate and return manatees to the wild.”
The Manatee Critical Care Center in Jacksonville serves as a key location. Having this center in Jacksonville will provide manatees that are rescued in North Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina with faster care. This will also allow them to be released to their home sooner with less transport time.
Manatees are federally protected and relatively rare. They face constant dangers from boats, nets, illnesses, and pollution. We are very excited to announce a new care center for them!