Meet Margarito

A manatee named in honor of Jimmy Buffett's hit song

Margarito the manatee
If you look closely, you can see Margarito's missing left flipper on this photo taken in February 2014. Margarito lost the flipper after it became entangled in fishing line. (Photo © Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club)

Margarito is a male manatee, first identified at Blue Spring State Park on November 24, 1984. He is the son of Lily, another manatee in Save the Manatee Club's (SMC) Adopt-A-Manatee program. Margarito is named in honor of the hit song "Margaritaville" by SMC Co-Founder Jimmy Buffett. The original plan was to name a female calf Margarita, but there were only three male calves at Blue Spring that year, so Margarita became Margarito.

Margarito has visited Blue Spring State Park, located in Orange City, Florida, every winter since he was first identified. He is easily recognized by researchers, but for a sad reason -- he is missing one of his flippers as a result of entanglement in fishing line. According to Wayne Hartley, SMC's Manatee Specialist, Margarito has been rescued for entanglement several times. The first time, Margarito was at Blue Spring, and one of the rangers was able to cut the line off him from a canoe. "A few years later, he came in with a bad line entanglement and spent three days at SeaWorld in Orlando to make sure they got it all," says Wayne. "After appearing to heal very well for one or two years, one day he came in with the flipper gone at the old entanglement scar, almost at the body." Margarito seems to have adapted to his injury and can move around and eat using only one flipper, but he is a good reminder that debris in the waterway, such as discarded fishing line and hooks and plastic bags, is dangerous to manatees and other wildlife.

Margarito the manatee's scar patterns on his tail.
Margarito is also identified by the notches and scars on his tail, as you can see by this photo taken in December 2013. (Photo © Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club)

Known for being very curious, friendly, and social, Margarito is often found in the company of other manatees, and his best buddy seems to be Brutus. They frequently travel in and out for the season together. Margarito also likes to hang out with "the guys" at Blue Spring and can often be found with Howie, Lenny, Flash, Floyd, Merlin, Doc, Paddy Doyle, Robin, Nick, and Philip. Margarito likes to investigate the research canoe when Wayne does "manatee roll call," the morning manatee count and identification at Blue Spring. He will often come by the research canoe to say "Hi" with a gentle bump.

There is another interesting story about Margarito that Wayne has related. Once, when a manatee was reported dead, Wayne had to go just south of the park to see if he could identify it. As you can imagine, this was not a happy task. But Margarito followed Wayne as he paddled out to the site and then remained there with him until he was done.

This year, Margarito will turn 30 in November, which makes him middle aged as manatees are capable of living more than 60 years. However, the many threats they face in the wild, particularly from human activities, can significantly shorten their lifespan. We were glad to see Margarito when he showed up for the 2013 - 2014 manatee season on a chilly day in December, and he has been documented as making 10 visits to Blue spring so far this winter. Wayne reports that Margarito has recently acquired a six by five-inch fungus that may add to his scar pattern by creating a large notch on his tail, but other than that, he looks well.

Be sure to check our Blue Spring web cam at www.manatv.org and get Wayne Hartley's Manatee Updates for the latest Margarito news. Click the following link to see some new photos that Wayne took of Margarito this year and watch new video of Margarito below.

A video of Margarito the manatee, taken at Blue Spring State Park on January 26, 2014 by Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club's Manatee Specialist. Margarito enters from the left side of the screen. Notice how he uses his right flipper to maneuver. (Video © Save the Manatee Club)

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