An eclectic team of Zoo employees met at a boat ramp in Port St. John yesterday to help an animal that they had never met.
Back in July, an adult male manatee was found floating high in the water in the St. Johns River. He was named Southprong for the location where he was discovered and sent to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to begin his rehabilitation journey. It was first thought that this buoyancy issue stemmed from a watercraft-related incident, but the cause of this issue could ultimately not be determined.
The manatee was later transferred to Miami Seaquarium, where he completed the rehabilitation process and was deemed ready for release! Southprong was accompanied by a team of Seaquarium staff members for his nearly four-hour trip to Port St. John.
Upon his arrival at the boat ramp, seven Zoo staff members and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) marine mammal biologist Bill Greer were ready to help Southprong make his way back into the water! The crew used a large “stretcher” to unload the manatee from the truck—on average, adults weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds—and place him safely on the ground next to the water, where measurements and photos were taken.
Then it was all hands on deck to get Southprong into the water. The crew of 13 slowly waded the manatee into the lagoon using the stretcher, then pushed down to let Southprong go on his own—and then he was gone!
We were excited to be a part of Southprong’s journey back home, but it is unfortunate that this species in in trouble. If you spot an injured, distressed or dead manatee, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).