Orlando: This past week, the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team traveled to Charleston, S.C. alongside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Ocean Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. These major environmental organizations were mobilized with one very important focus; a wayward manatee.
The manatee was spotted in the upper reaches of the Cooper River, near a warm water outflow area. Due to dipping river temperature, the manatee remained close to the warm outflow. This move left the animal isolated from adequate food sources and naturally warm water, which is critical to the health of manatees. Typically, if water temperatures dwindle below a refreshing 68 degrees, manatees leave the area and move to warmer waters.
On December 11, the team successfully rescued a very large male manatee after hours of searching. This was no simple task as this particular manatee weighed over 1,300 pounds. This animal is known from the Port Everglades, Florida area. After rescue, the male manatee was brought to SeaWorld Orlando for a medical examination and monitoring. These procedures are in place to assess and ensure the health and wellbeing of a rescued animal before being cleared for return to a local Florida waterway where the waters remain warm.
A smaller manatee was also spotted in the Cooper River but attempts to locate that animal have not been successful.
You can help: Local authorities are asking the public to report any sightings of that animal to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at: 843-953-9360 or 1-800-922-5431 or to report them to the agency’s manatee sighting website here.
The Florida manatee is endangered and still at risk of injury and mortality by both man-made and natural causes. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that affect manatees that may result in rescue. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear. If you see fishing gear abandoned along a waterway, always remove it if you can do so safely.
SeaWorld has been rescuing animals both large and small for over five decades. To date, SeaWorld has come to the aid of over 27,000 stranded, sick, and injured animals, making the organization a world leader in rescue, rehabilitation, and release as well as global conservation initiatives.