Featured Image Credit: Jacksonville.com
By Kira Krall
Florida’s newest Manatee Critical Care Center is only one of four in the state. It’s about to release three of its patients back into the wild! Two of the manatees have been with the zoo since 2015 and were the first patients admitted to the Center. Cassie and Buckeye were orphans found off the coast of South Florida by Sea World and they will be released in the nearby waters of Cape Canaveral in February.
Cold water stress brought the third manatee to the Jacksonville Zoo. It was rescued off the Carolina coast and brought to the Zoo’s critical care center. It’s spent three weeks recovering from the recent cold snap and will hopefully be released before February.
Zoo staff is excited to see the full process of care to release through. Sending these manatees back into the wild waters where they came from will also open up space in the critical care center for new patients. The Jacksonville Zoo will likely need to house more cold-stunned patients in the coming winter months.
While large, manatees don’t have the thick blubber layer like their marine mammal relatives do. A cold-stunned manatee will have trouble moving and may eventually starve if the water doesn’t warm up quickly enough. Florida manatees escape cold weather by swimming in the balmy 72-degree waters of Florida springs. Watch a video of the recent manatee migration to Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge here!