Featured Image Credit: SeaWorld Orlando
A team of SeaWorld rescuers and other organizations recently banded together in Charleston, South Carolina to help save a group of ten wayward manatees. The stranded manatees were spotted in the Cooper River where there was an outflow area of warmer water.
Typically, manatees move south when the water turns colder, typically below 68 degrees. As a result of the rapidly dropping water temperature, the group was stuck in this cold outflow area instead of continuing south. There was also a limited food source for the manatees, and if they remained isolated, they may not have survived.
SeaWorld, Sea to Shore Alliance, Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff and local businesses monitored the manatees’ condition and behavior. Jon Peterson, SeaWorld’s rescue manager, coordinated a multi-agency team to get the job done. The rescue took place over a period of three days on November 28-30 and included the rescue of eight male and two female wayward manatees.
Each individual manatee was provided with an immediate health assessment by a crew of veterinarians from Jacksonville Zoo, SeaWorld, and UF. After, manatees were transported south to the Jacksonville Zoo for more health evaluations. Nine of the ten manatees were able to be released back to warmer water. FWC would perform the transportation of manatees to be released in Brevard County, FL. The Sea to Shore Alliance tagged five of the manatees in order to monitor their activity for their Atlantic Coast manatee study.
One lone manatee was demonstrating signs of mild cold stress. She was unable to be released and is now in critical care at the Jacksonville Zoo. She is being supervised and tended to there with the support of SeaWorld and Lowry Park Zoo. This is Jacksonville Zoo’s first critical care manatee at their new facility. The good news is, they reported that the manatee is doing well!
The team coordinated by John Peterson that assisted SeaWorld in the rescue was made up of a number of organizations including: USFWS Ecological Services Office staff from Florida and South Carolina, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – including staff from St. Petersburg, the Northeast Florida Field Lab in Jacksonville, and the East Central Field Lab in Melbourne along with volunteers and law enforcement, Sea to Shore Alliance, ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, NOAA National Ocean Services – Charleston, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Clearwater (FL) Marine Aquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, Brevard Zoo, Brevard County Parks and Recreation, Florida Wildlife Hospital, and Waterfront Solutions.