An adult female manatee and her calf were released in Merritt Island yesterday thanks in part to a group of Zoo employees who were happy to lend a hand (or two).
In late May, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was alerted that a manatee had been spotted near Merritt Island with buoyancy issues. After monitoring her for a few days without seeing improvement, FWC and SeaWorld Orlando staff rescued the adult female on June 1, and she was taken to SeaWorld for rehabilitation.
Just a few days after her arrival, the manatee—named Baba—gave birth to a female calf. The young manatee was named Jaetay and weighed 102 pounds at the time of release—as light as a feather in comparison to her 1,185-pound mother!
Although the cause of Baba’s buoyancy issues was never determined, she and her calf were deemed ready for release and transported to Merritt Island for their return to the Indian River Lagoon. Five Zoo staff members were onsite to help FWC and SeaWorld get this duo into the water!
Large “stretchers” were used to unload the manatees from a specialized vehicle and place them safely on the ground, where photos and measurements were taken. Then it was time for the big moment! The crew slowly waded both manatees into the water, pushing down on the stretcher to let the mom-and-daughter pair go at their own pace.
You can help keep these sea cows safe by responsibly disposing of your fishing gear, keeping your distance when you encounter manatees, and heeding laws and posted notices while boating. If you spot an injured, distressed or dead manatee, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.