Manatee Hit By A Boat Gets Custom Made “Manatee Wetsuit” To Stay Afloat

22 May 2015

SeaWorld’s animal rescue team has created a custom made animal wetsuit for an injured manatee to help it stay afloat.

The 10-year-old female manatee was injured by a water craft strike and is currently being treated by veterinarians for buoyancy issues due to a collapsed lung. The condition, known as a pneumothorax,   was potentially caused by the blunt force of the boat striking the animal. For a manatee, not being able to float evenly in the water is a serious issue, causing problems with feeding, swimming and coming up to the surface for air. To treat the pneumothorax the SeaWorld Veterinary Team needed to draw out trapped air and fluids from around the manatee’s lungs.

The manatee was found with her calf, estimated to be two-years-old. Although he was unharmed by the water craft, he is still nursing and dependent on his mother. It is important that the pair remain together as the calf continues to grow and learn from its mother.

About the “Manatee Wetsuit”

  • The wet suit is made from 20 square feet of hot pink neoprene, the wetsuit attaches around the mother’s body with a fabric hook and loop fastener.
  • In past rescues, custom floating inserts have been attached to the wetsuit to help the manatee float evenly in the water; the inserts can be moved around and eventually removed as the issue corrects throughout the rehabilitation.
  • The wetsuit provides even stability around the mother’s thoracic cavity which can help prevent pockets of air and fluid from returning.
  • The custom made “manatee wetsuit” was designed 25 years ago for such rescue cases.
  • SeaWorld sent specific measurements to a wetsuit manufacturer to create this unique treatment tool.
  • Special considerations were made when using the wetsuit as part of the treatment so it would not interfere with natural behaviors, such as the calf’s nursing.

Or the next several weeks, the SeaWorld Orlando Animal Rescue team will continue to closely monitor the mother manatee’s progress and ensure her calf is still properly nursing by her side.

So far in 2015, SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team has rescued 27 manatees and returned 27. The goal, as with every rescue, is to return the manatee back to its natural environment once strong enough to survive on its own. In collaboration with the government and other members of stranding networks, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates one of the world’s most respected programs to rescue ill and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitate and return to the ocean. SeaWorld animal experts have helped more than 25,000 animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned – for more than five decades. As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees.

The endangered Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

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