Members of the SeaWorld Rescue team traveled to South Carolina recently, where in collaboration with multiple organizations, they assisted in the rescue and relocation of a large male manatee. The rescued animal was transported to the Jacksonville Zoo and is being treated for cold stress.
Following close coordination with the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff authorized the rescue operation that included SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue team. Support for the rescue came from a broad range of agencies and organizations, including: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff from Jacksonville, Charleston, Ernest F. Hollings – ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and Cape Romain NWR, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Sea to Shore Alliance, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Clearwater (FL) Marine Aquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the University of Florida Aquatic Animal Health Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – National Ocean Services – Charleston, and the National Marine Mammal Foundation. WestRock Company (Charleston) provided logistic support for the rescue.
Similar rescue operations took place in the Cooper River in 2015, 2016, and 2017. All of those animals were successfully relocated to Florida, some after brief stays in manatee critical care facilities. As fall arrives, some manatees that are attracted to the lush feeding grounds in the upper reaches of the Cooper River seem reluctant to leave the area even as water temperatures fall. Instead, they locate warm water sources and subsequently delay their migration south. Solutions are being put in place to address these sources in an effort to reduce their attraction to manatees and encourage them to move south earlier.
As a general reminder to the public, manatees should never be fed or watered. This not only teaches the animals to approach docks and boats, putting them at greater risk of boat strikes but also is illegal. If more manatees are confirmed through sighting reports, additional rescue efforts will be coordinated.
Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership
As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership, SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees.
The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at www.wildtracks.org. The Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.
SeaWorld’s Rescue Efforts
Over the last five decades, SeaWorld has rescued more than 33,000 wild animals in need including those that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned. SeaWorld’s goal for every rescued animal is to rehabilitate and return them to their natural environment as soon as possible.
The SeaWorld rescue team is on call 24/7, 365 days a year, giving endangered and threatened marine animals a second chance at life. This year alone SeaWorld has rescued 69 manatees and returned 23, many after successful rehabilitation.
Guests to SeaWorld Orlando can learn more about the vital work SeaWorld does for wildlife at the park’s behind the scenes Rescue Center, used for rehabilitating wildlife that has been ill, injured or orphaned – including manatees, sea turtles, birds and other marine animals.
For the latest on SeaWorld Orlando and other theme parks, attractions and more across the region, be sure to follow Touring Central Florida on twitter @TourCentralFL, @androckb, @Emmet_TCF, @JacobTouringCe1, and give our facebook page a like.