“An Exceptional Case of Resiliency”
by Wayne Hartley and Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club
March 08, 2023
We first met Lesley on November 5, 2014, when she brought a new calf into the Blue Spring run. Going by her size and lack of scars, she was estimated to be about six years old, and this was very likely her first calf. Lesley got her name from Lesley Argiri, a high school teacher in Michigan, who is a manatee lover and benefactor of Save the Manatee Club that started the official Save the Manatee 5K in 2003.
Manatee Lesley’s calf was struck by a boat before the winter season ended. The calf’s new scars made it possible for her to be identified in the future, and so she was named ”Lennox.” Lesley and Lennox—now a yearling—came in for the next season on November 30, 2015. Lesley had suffered a severe boat strike to her upper back. It appeared that the wound was healing well during the season, and it was not apparent that there was a severe infection developing underneath.
During the 2017-18 winter season, Lesley’s condition seemed to worsen, and she became very emaciated. On March 20, 2018, Lesley and a nursing calf were rescued together and brought to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation. The large calf, now named “Leena,” was doing well and was released at Blue Spring in November 2018. After several surgeries and expert care from the team at SeaWorld, Lesley was released at Blue Spring on January 20, 2021. Leena had no identifying marks, so we were unable to keep track of her. Shortly after her release, Lesley joined Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee® program in spring 2021.
Lesley adjusted well to life back in the wild and looked wonderful during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 winter seasons. We last saw her during the morning roll call on February 5. On February 23, 2023, we were informed that Lesley’s body had been recovered in Lake Woodruff just north of Blue Spring on February 17. A cause of death could not be determined.
Lesley’s story is an example of the incredible resiliency manatees have and what they can endure besides horrific boat strikes and other human-related issues. It is also a prime example of the wonderful work of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), who were responsible for rescuing Lesley, providing the care she needed for almost three years, and releasing her back into the wild.
Manatee Lesley’s legacy will continue, through both her descendants and the event started by her namesake, Lesley Argiri. Her calf Lennox is now a mature female manatee, and has already given birth to her own female calf, called ”Leona.” And the Manatee 5k continues—it has become a major contributor of donations to Save the Manatee Club over the years. The 5k is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with an in-person race to be held in Michigan on October 7, 2023. Virtual participants will be able to join from all around the world.