By Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist; Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia and Manatee Research Associate; and Nancy Sadusky, Director of Online Communications
Date: January 31, 2022
There was both exciting and sad manatee news to start the new year in January 2022. Our famous east coast adoptee Chessie was sighted again, we participated in the release of Gibbs, and we got updates on Moira-Rose and MaryKate, two manatees our research team helped to rescue. Our sad news was the identification of Volusia, a longtime winter visitor to Blue Spring, as among the many deceased manatees this year.
On January 25th, a submersible underwater receiver picked up Chessie’s sonic transmitter in the Port Everglades discharge canal on the southeastern coast of Florida. Staff from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) responded and were able to get a new tag back on Chessie. Chessie’s tag, or tracking device, stopped transmitting in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 27, 2021, after the tag was likely damaged by an alligator. We are excited to have Chessie back online again, and CMARI staff reported his overall body condition looked good.
Chessie is one of Save the Manatee Club’s manatee adoptees. He first gained the attention of people up and down the Eastern Seaboard after he was sighted in the Chesapeake Bay in July of 1994 and had to be rescued when the weather turned colder in the fall. Save the Manatee Club (SMC) was instrumental in Chessie’s initial rescue and provided financial support for the rescue effort.
A Manatee Success Story: Moira-Rose
Almost a year ago, our SMC research team at Blue Spring State Park spotted a severely cold-stressed pregnant female manatee. A swift rescue was organized by our partners from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), SeaWorld Orlando, and Volusia County, and the manatee was rehabilitated at SeaWorld as part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. Moira-Rose was released back into the wild in March of last year and on January 20th, our research team spotted her at Blue Spring during the morning count. And best of all — she has a healthy-looking calf in tow! Her cold-stress-induced scars have completely healed over and are only visible as grey remnants that can hardly be seen. We are thrilled to have her back at Blue Spring!
Update on MaryKate
In January, four rescued manatees were flown on a transport flight donated by DHL from SeaWorld Orlando to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for continued rehabilitation as part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. This frees up critical bed space for manatees in need of rescue in Florida. One of the manatees, MaryKate, was rescued at Blue Spring State Park in January of 2021 with the help of Save the Manatee Club. The little female was malnourished, but she has made tremendous progress at SeaWorld, and we know she will continue to do well with the care of staff at the Columbus Zoo. MaryKate has a ways to go as she will need to weigh 600 pounds before she can be released back into the wild.
Gibbs Goes Back Home
In early January, our research staff assisted with the release of Gibbs, a female manatee, at Blue Spring State Park. Gibbs was rescued in early 2021 by the FWC with assistance from University of Florida Marine Animal Rescue and CMARI near Welaka, Florida, because of cold stress and overall thin body condition. Gibbs was in very poor shape, and rescue crews were not optimistic she would survive, but – miraculously – with the help of trained vets giving her CPR on the 80-mile trip, she made it to rehabilitation at SeaWorld and recovered. Gibbs is outfitted with a satellite tracking device so researchers from CMARI can monitor her movements.
Tribute to Volusia
Part of Save the Manatee Club’s research includes looking at photos of deceased manatees and attempting to match them to known Blue Spring manatees. Unfortunately, this past week, SMC Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley was able to match “Volusia,” a known Blue Spring manatee. Volusia had not been sighted at Blue Spring for the past two winter seasons.
Volusia died in Lake Dexter, north of Blue Spring State Park, and was documented on April 18, 2020. Her mother Alice gave birth to Volusia in the summer of 2009 and brought her to the park in November of that year. Volusia was sixth in a seven-generation manatee family and gave birth to fraternal twins in 2014 – our first manatee twins at Blue Spring that were not of the same sex. Below is a beautiful video showing Volusia and her twins in the summer of 2014. SMC Manatee Research Associate Cora Berchem recalls monitoring adoptee Annie and her newborn calf on July 30th when a ranger called to announce another manatee mother with twins was in the spring run. We will always remember Volusia as a wonderful manatee mother and part of the Blue Spring family.
Thank you to all of our Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership partners who played a part in the reporting, rescue, rehabilitation, and release of these manatees. You can make a difference for manatees by donating to our Emergency Rescue Fund at savethemanatee.org/emergencyrescue. Remember to always report sick and injured manatees to the FWC at 1-888-404-3922.