The number still posted on signs and the Fish and Wildlife Commission web site connects callers to a phone sex line instead.
Hundreds of manatees fall victim to injury or illness in Florida every year, but if you try to help by calling the Manatee in Distress Hotline posted throughout the state. You may not hear what you are expecting. Until last summer, callers to the old hotline were forwarded to the state's new manatee rescue number, but now callers are directed to a phone sex line after an x-rated company bought the 800 number. Fish and Wildlife commission spokesman Henry Cabbage was actually surprised to see the old number still posted on the commission's website.
Cabbage says the state is trying to get its old number back, but it's not that easy.
“Somebody owns that phone number so we've got to buy that phone number back from them and if they're not a state contractor, there's some hoops you've got to jump through,” says Cabbage.
The idea of getting a phone sex line by mistake might sound kind of funny to some people, but Florida's best-known manatee group says it could have serious consequences
Pat Rose of Save the Manatees says callers getting an x-rated runaround might run out of patience, and injured manatees might not get the help they need.
“A lot of people take their own time and try to do this and if they can't get through, they get a sex line, they don't know where to turn from there, it would be very important that that not happen,” says Pat.
The state doesn't keep track of the number of calls it gets each year to assist injured manatees, but estimates run in the thousands.
The new Manatee in Distress Hotline number is 1-888-404-FWCC. (1-888-404-3922.)