Press Release: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners released two rehabilitated manatees rescued during the recent red tide bloom Thursday in Boca Grande in southwest Florida. These are the first rescued manatees affected by the recent red tide to be released.
“Our staff and partners worked tirelessly on response efforts throughout the red tide event,” said Leslie Ward-Geiger, the FWC’s Marine Mammal Research Program leader. “It is gratifying to see those efforts pay off with the release of these rehabilitated animals.”
Through extensive response efforts, the FWC and partners rescued 16 manatees suffering from the effects of a red tide bloom that was documented from late last September to April. Fifteen manatees survived after they were initially taken to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for treatment.
Once rescued manatees are rehabilitated, marine mammal researchers aim to release them near their rescue location, due to the manatees’ familiarity with the area. As harmful effects of the recent bloom have waned, FWC biologists have determined these rehabilitated manatees can now be released safely. More manatee releases are planned in the next two months.
The larger male released Thursday was the first rescued suffering from red tide effects during the recent bloom in October. That manatee was moved from the zoo to SeaWorld Orlando earlier this year for care until its release to ensure the zoo had space for critical care cases. The FWC and partners rescued the smaller female manatee in March, and it remained at the zoo until Thursday’s release.
Red tide is the preliminary cause of death for 270 manatees in 2013, a single-year record. Manatees are mainly exposed to the red tide toxin through ingestion of food such as seagrass with accumulated toxin levels.
Response efforts are aided by citizen observers. The public is asked to report distressed or dead manatees by calling the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), dialing #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or texting Tip@MyFWC.com.
Florida residents can support manatee research and conservation through the purchase of the Save the Manatee license plate. For more information, visit www.buyaplate.com. To learn more about manatee conservation, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee.