Meet a Manatee: Lorelei
Gentle and social, she sometimes exhibits an independent streak
Lorelei has the distinction of being the first manatee born in captivity in the state of Florida. She was born on May 3, 1975 to — appropriately — parents Romeo and Juliet at the Miami Seaquarium. Lorelei also lived at The Living Seas at Epcot/Walt Disney World in Orlando, and now she resides at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida.
Because Lorelei was born in captivity and knows nothing of the challenges found in the wild, she has not been considered a good candidate for release. The difficulty with preparing captive-born manatees for life in the wild is why captive breeding has not been conducted for Florida manatees for many years. For now, Lorelei continues to live with the other captive manatees in the clear headwaters of the Homosassa River.
The staff at the park say that Lorelei has a very gentle personality and is fairly social. She is a regular at education programs and will entertain the crowd, and perhaps herself, by rolling over on her back while accepting nutritional treats. She is often seen resting with Ariel and Electra, other manatees at the park, but Lorelei has an independent streak and will sometimes head off by herself. She’s known for swimming laps from one end of the spring to the other — often incorporating a barrel roll as a flourish when she executes her turns. She also swims around the underwater observatory while waiting for feedings and is often seen doing barrel rolls from inside the underwater observatory.
Homosassa’s manatee “fish bowl” with its observation deck and underwater viewing area sits over the Homosassa spring head. Homosassa Springs is a first magnitude spring, releasing 72° F groundwater at a rate of at least 100 cubic feet per second (64 million gallons per day). This may seem like a lot, but the amount of flow from the spring has decreased over the years due to human demands for water.
From November through March, Lorelei, Ariel, and Electra share their spring habitat with manatees living in the wild. At that time, Lorelei and the other girls are transferred to a smaller area of the spring for the winter. Their new accommodations include a supplemental heater, which the manatees love! After the transfer, gates that separate the park’s manatees from the wild herd are opened, and they remain open throughout the winter. In the spring, the gates are lowered, and Lorelei and the other captive manatees get the entire spring back for themselves. Save the Manatee Club helped purchased the new gates to ensure protection of, and manatee access to, warm water springs, since protecting manatee habitat is one of the most effective ways to protect manatees.
On President’s Day 2017, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rescued a juvenile male manatee from Crystal River that exhibited signs of cold stress. The manatee was brought to the park for rehabilitation, utilizing the park’s in-ground heated treatment pool. After a physical health assessment and continuous care from the park rangers and veterinarian, the young manatee, named Roosevelt, began improving. After several months of care and supervision, he received a clean bill of health, and his successful release into Kings Bay was a coordinated effort between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and park staff. While Roosevelt was recuperating at the park, Lorelei was reportedly very interested in him. She was often observed staring at him through the fencing. She also enjoys her food and had been seen eating any of his lettuce that passed through the fencing, so perhaps that was the real attraction!
Lorelei is an ambassador for all manatees, and when you adopt her, you are helping all manatees to survive. Each person who adopts Lorelei will receive a full-color photo, biography, and adoption certificate, as well as a membership handbook and subscription to The Manatee Zone, a newsletter featuring updates on the adopted manatees when they are sighted, and Paddle Tales, Save the Manatee Club’s bi-monthly eNewsletter. For more information about adopting Lorelei, go to Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee page, or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).
If you are in Florida, you can visit Lorelei and the other manatees at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. And be sure to check out other manatees on the Blue Spring webcams at ManaTV.org.
A video of Lorelei taken at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (Video ©Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club).