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Friday, October 18, 2019

SeaWorld and Cincinnati Zoo Collaborate on Manatee Rehabilitation and Care

Orphaned manatees Miles and Matthew are headed back to SeaWorld Orlando after spending extended time at the Cincinnati Zoo for additional rehabilitation, and a young male manatee rescued by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in November 2018 is headed to Cincinnati from SeaWorld Orlando. The multi-manatee move is a part of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a collaborative program designed to rescue and treat sick, injured and orphaned manatees and then release them back into the wild.

“The collaborative work of the MRP allows us all to provide the best possible care for these rescued animals,” explained Jon Peterson, manager of rescue operations for SeaWorld Orlando. “All of the facilities and agencies play a key role in manatee conservation, whether it’s rescuing the animals, providing around the clock care for manatee calves in critical condition or providing a temporary home until they have been deemed returnable. We’re all working together to give this threatened population a chance to survive.”

“We know the Cincinnati Zoo will provide excellent care as these manatees finish their rehabilitation, with a goal of returning them to Florida waters,” added Peterson.

Meet the Manatees:
·        Miles (male) was rescued from the Sykes Creek on Merritt Island, Florida in August 2016 by FWC, weighing only 43 pounds.  After receiving extended critical care at Sea World Orlando, he moved to Cincinnati and has gained enough weight to be eligible for release. 
·       Matthew (male) was rescued from New Smyrna in October 2016 by FWC, just after Hurricane Matthew. He weighed 56 pounds when rescued but has gained more than 700 pounds while at SeaWorld and the Cincinnati Zoo.
·       Truffleshuffle (juvenile male) was rescued by FWC in November 2018 and brought to SeaWorld Orlando suffering from cold stress.   He has gained approximately 230 pounds in the past year and will continue to be cared for and rehabilitated at the Cincinnati Zoo, with a goal of returning him to Florida waters.

Truffleshuffle will be the 20th manatee to be rehabbed at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden since Manatee Springs opened in 1999,” said Curator of Invertebrates & Manatees Winton Ray. “It’s an honor to participate in the MRP and have the opportunity to help these amazing animals get a second chance at life in the wild.  The critical care work being done at SeaWorld, especially when these rescued manatees are first brought in, is vital to their rehabilitation and successful return.”

“SeaWorld is able to offer exceptional care in rescue and rehabilitation because of the experience of their dedicated and skilled team,” Ray continued.

Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership:  Collaborating to Save Species:
As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees.

The Cincinnati Zoo is only one of two U.S. facilities outside of Florida to participate in the USFWS’ Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership, which began in 1973.  They are a second stage rehabilitation facility that provide temporary homes for manatees until they are ready for release back into the wild.

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 The Florida manatee was recently reclassified from endangered to threatened but is still at risk from both natural and human 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 floodgates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear. 

SeaWorld’s Rescue Efforts
Over the last five decades, SeaWorld has rescued more than 36,000 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.

This year alone, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 18 manatees and returned 12 back to the wild following successful rehabilitation. SeaWorld’s Rescue Team is on call 24/7, 365 days a year, and always ready to help an animal in need.

Guests to SeaWorld Orlando can learn more about the vital rescue 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. 

While a guided tour of the entire facility has been available for years, the park has now opened up one portion of this area for complimentary viewing to all park guests. Visitors are invited to step behind-the-scenes and catch a glimpse of SeaWorld’s working manatee rescue and rehabilitation facility to learn more about the plight of these vulnerable animals in the wild. See firsthand some of the top problems today’s manatee populations are facing and simple actions we can all take to help through digital medical charts, interactive displays, underwater camera viewing and rescue footage straight from the SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team.

All manatee rescue footage produced by SeaWorld under the FWS Permit Number MA770191.

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