APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – ZooTampa employees are working to rehabilitate a record number of manatees and one was released into its native waters on Wednesday morning!
It comes after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for manatees, with more than 1,100 deaths.
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Chandler, a 720 pound manatee was released into the water at the TECO Manatee Observation Center on Wednesday morning and for many it was a bittersweet moment. ZooTampa officials say Chandler is the first of many manatees to be rehabilitated and released this year.
“We knew something was wrong because he was going in circles and every time he went up his nose was a beige color,” said Joy Ramond, a Tampa Bay resident.
A year ago, Joy Raymond was cycling near Portosueno Park in Manatee County, when she saw a manatee acting stressed out in the water.
“So I came home and called FWC,” Raymond said.
A year later, this manatee is finally healthy.
Florida Manatee Curator at ZooTampa, Molly Lippincott said, “Today we released Chandler the Manatee. He came to us last year with Cold Stress Syndrome, and he had a great recovery and it was time for him to go home.
Chandler was finally able to swim in open water again, after a year of rehabilitation at ZooTampa.
“I really have no doubts he’s going to do well there,” Lippincott said.
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Lippincott has taken care of Chandler for the past year since he arrived with hypothermia.
“Him in particular, he definitely needed to gain weight, and that’s typical when they suffer from cold stress,” Lippincott said.
She says Chandler has gained around 300 pounds since arriving at ZooTampa, but he’s not the only one who needs help. Lippincott is currently helping rehabilitate 19 different manatees at the facility.
“Right now we’re giving our animals 1,300 pounds of food,” Lippincott said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that 2021 was the deadliest year for manatees. According to data, 1,101 manatees died.
“To have such a murderous year has been very disheartening and disheartening,” said Lippincott.
That’s why Lippincott says you should keep an eye out for struggling manatees and try not to contribute to pollution and Raymond says she hopes Chandler has a long and healthy life.
“Every life matters. I hope we have made a difference in the world and that he will eventually come out and have his own babies, ”Lippincott said.
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“I’m glad he’s out there, but he’s not as safe as sitting in an aquarium, but he has to go out and be with the other manatees,” Raymond said.