Featured Image Credit: Rachael Kimbrough.
Video Source: Uploaded by AP & produced by Florida Keys News Bureau
November is Manatee Awareness Month, so it is only fitting that on November 15th, two manatees were released back into the Florida Keys waters.
Happy homecoming to Millennium and Falcon! The manatees are actually the twin offspring of a beloved manatee named Bonnie. The Dolphin Research Center and Florida Fish and Wildlife rescued them two years ago when they were five months old.
Their story began in October of 2016, after their mother was accidentally killed by a boat strike. The manatee rescue team saved her babies, one male and one female. They each weighed about 100 pounds.
After initial rehab at Miami Seaquarium, they were transferred to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to grow up a little. They returned to Miami Seaquarium in September 2018 to begin re-acclamation to prepare them for release. Preparation came in the form of reintroduction to Florida saltwater again and their natural diets of turtle grass, manatee grass, micro and macro algae and mangroves.
This timeline reflects the way manatee calves would regularly grow up to make the transition as seamless as possible. According to experts, they usually stay with their mothers one to two years. Twin manatees make up less than four percent of all births.
Two years later, the brother and sister found themselves in the bay side mangroves behind Calusa Campground in Key Largo. Now weighing in at about 600 pounds, they were able to safely return to their natural habitat.
Taking over the role as guardian of these beloved creatures means that manatee experts
will continue to watch over them. They are wearing satellite tracking transmitters to keep up with their condition and ensure safety.
Biologists with the Sea to Shore Alliance conservation group will not only monitor Millennium and Falcon, but frequent the area to see firsthand how they’re adjusting. After keeping an eye on these two over the next four months, the tags will be removed.
According to the Miami Herald, the siblings joined the resident manatees, indicating positive results from their rehabilitation and preparation. They also reported that after a few minutes, the brother and sister, whose bond appeared unbreakable even in the presence of new friends, swam into the mangroves.
The crowd of residents, scientists and volunteers who gathered to witness Millennium and Falcon return home cheered them on as they did so.