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Orlando, Florida

Five Rehabilitated Manatees Return to Florida Waters After Several Years of Rehabilitation

12 Feb 2024

Earlier this month, the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to rescue, rehabilitate, release, and monitor sick and injured manatees– successfully released five orphaned manatees to Blue Spring State Park in Florida after a years’ long journey of rehabilitation by multiple members of the partnership.

The manatees were originally rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and MRP Partners between 2020 and 2021. SeaWorld Orlando, The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Brevard Zoo, Georgia Aquarium, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute and Save the Manatee Club, partnered closely for several years to provide treatment to fully rehabilitate these orphaned calves. In a complex release operation that took all day to complete, the sea cows are now safely home in Florida waters.

“Over the past several years, we have been called upon to rescue an increasing number of injured, sick, and orphaned manatees,” said Virginia Edmonds, President of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership. “We are grateful to our partners for stepping up to the plate to not only rescue animals in need, but to commit countless hours to the collective rehabilitation of these animals, which enabled the releases today. But our work doesn’t stop here.

Every animal returned today will be fitted with a GPS tracking device that will allow researchers the ability to monitor their movements and ensure their acclimation to their natural habitat for the next year. These releases come at a critical time for the species as Florida manatees are at high risk from natural and human-caused threats.

“We pride ourselves on our nearly 50-year legacy to the rescue, rehabilitation, and return of manatees to save these beloved Florida icons who play a critical role in our ecosystem," said Dr. Joseph Gaspard, Vice President of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando & Vice Chairman of the MRP. "While we are thrilled to lead this effort, it would not be made possible without close collaboration with our partners in the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. This was truly a team effort among the zoological community to ensure the best care was provided to return these manatees back to their natural habitat."


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