Each year, many manatees are killed or injured by watercraft collisions. They also accidentally ingest fishhooks, litter, or they can become entangled in crab trap or monofilament line. But people may be able to help rescue a manatee by calling wildlife officials. They will investigate and, if need be, coordinate the rescue of the manatee.

Manatees Ace and Venice await release.
Manatees Ace and Venice await release back into their natural environment near Fort Myers, Florida. Ace had been been rescued for cold stress and was rehabilitated at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, and Venice was rehabilitated at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

The Rescue Network

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists work with a network of agencies and organizations to rescue manatees and transport them to rehabilitation facilities. SeaWorld Orlando, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Lowry Park Zoo, Miami Seaquarium, Dolphin Research Center, and the Manatee Critical Care Center at the Jacksonville Zoo are all facilities in Florida that are authorized under the joint supervision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the FWC to capture, transport and/or treat manatees. In addition, a number of agencies and organizations exist outside of Florida to help manatees, including Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, among others.

Once a manatee is ready to be released, it is equipped with tracking gear and its health and re-adaptation to the wild is monitored by the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative effort of nonprofit, private, state and federal entities. (Save the Manatee Club is one of the MRP partners.)

Save the Manatee Club staff handle reports from the public on injured manatees and help to facilitate rescues. SMC has also provided funds for equipment used in manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts both in and outside of Florida.

Leesburg the manatee is released in Florida.
Leesburg the manatee is released at Welaka, Florida, in May 2016 after undergoing rehabilitation for severe cold stress at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

Save the Manatee Club’s Work

Supporting manatee rescue and rehabilitation has been a fundamental aspect of Save the Manatee Club (SMC) for decades. SMC has provided funding and staff assistance for multiple manatee rescues and releases, as well as funds for the care and rehabilitation of injured and cold-stressed manatees at a number of facilities.

SMC provided funds to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (HSWSP) in order to feed and care for manatees rescued due to red tide exposure. In previous years, SMC has funded heat, veterinary care, and food for manatees recovering from cold stress at HSWSP. In addition, SMC has provided necessary equipment, such as a manatee stretcher and a centrifuge, to HSWSP.

Rescue and rehabilitation efforts have also included assisting Lowry Park Zoo with their manatee rehabilitation efforts by raising funds for a variety of essential equipment, including a new crane scale, shade cloths for medical pools, a new stretcher, and critical care pool doors. SMC has also provided funds for a new net for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in New Jersey in order to assist with manatee rescue in the northeast region, supported a tracking program in the Florida Keys focused on rehabilitated manatees with a history of monofilament entanglements, and started a manatee adoption program with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network in order to provide additional funds for the manatee stranding program.

Longo the manatee is released at TECO.
Manatee “Longo” waiting to be released at the TECO power plant in Apollo Beach after being rehabilitated for cold stress syndrome at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and South Florida Museum.

SMC has actively supported manatee rehabilitation as a member of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). Executive Director Patrick Rose and Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation, have led various subcommittees of the MRP and Dr. Tripp has co-chaired the Partnership.

Through the years, SMC has consistently contributed to, and led advocacy efforts, to ensure the essential preservation of much of the state’s funding for the Florida Manatee Critical Care Program, which financially supports the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and monitoring of cold-stressed and injured manatees. These funds have treated hundreds of manatees that may have suffered and died without proper treatment.

SMC supports rescue, rehabilitation, research, and relocation of manatees around the world, located in areas such as Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica, West Africa, Senegal, Brazil, and the United States. Collaboration with Wildtracks rehabilitation facility in Belize has involved contributing funds for food, medicine, and infrastructure updates of the facility, including a new lift system and a new pump for a water heating system. SMC has also provided over 600 pounds of much-needed formula to feed orphaned manatees in Belize, as well as funds for upgrades to the food prep kitchen at Wildtracks to provide food for manatees in rehabilitation. SMC has also supported orphaned manatees, such as Twiggy in Belize and Victor in West Africa, with food and medicine.

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