PORT SAINT JOHN, Florida – On this chilly morning, four rescued and rehabilitated manatees were returned back to their natural water ways by a large group of Florida’s marine mammal experts -- including SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and Miami Seaquarium – in a multi-organization effort led by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The two animals released by SeaWorld were particularly special, including the 500th manatee rescued by the park, and an animal that was rescued two years ago as a tiny, 121-pound orphan and now weighs a whopping 705 pounds.
The manatees were returned near the warm water outfall of the FPL Port St. John power plant in Brevard County to provide them with a warm water site during the current cold snap. There, the naïve animals can link up with experienced wild manatees that are also seeking refuge from chilly waters.
According to SeaWorld, the reason manatees are returned during cooler weather is because other wild manatees naturally congregate in specific warm water sources during these periods. Doing this allows the new animals to acclimate to a larger group, from which they can learn migratory patterns once the weather warms up. It also allows the newly-released manatees to familiarize themselves with a specific warm water site to return to the next time temperatures cool down.
The four manatees were all initially rescued from the Indian River Lagoon.
Quincentariat - This juvenile male manatee was rescued on May 10, 2014 from the Banana River in Cape Canaveral due to cold stress. He was the 500th manatee rescued by the SeaWorld Orlando Animal Rescue Team. At the time of rescue he weighed 286 pounds, measuring 6 feet in length. The healthy manatee now weighs over 735 pounds, measuring more than 8 feet long.
Shirley - The orphan female calf was rescued on January 28, 2014 from the De Soto Canal in Satellite Beach, Florida. At the time of rescue she weighed 121 pounds and measured 4 feet 8 inches in length. The healthy and independent manatee now weighs 705 pounds and measures 7 feet 8 inches long.
Hammock - A young male patient named “Hammock” was rescued in March of 2014 from Indian River as an orphan, and will now receive a second chance at life in the wild after nearly two years of rehabilitation at the Manatee Hospital at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.
Abigail - In March 2013, Abigail was rescued from the Indian River system near Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida. Suffering from cold stress, Abigail received critical care at Sea World Orlando and then was transferred to Cincinnati Zoo for rehabilitation. Then, in October of 2015, Abigail arrived at Miami Seaquarium to become acclimated to the natural diet and brackish water found in the region. She is estimated to weigh approximately 700-800 pounds and estimated to be between 3-5 years old.