SeaWorld Orlando Assists With Largest Manatee Rehabilitation in Jacksonville Zoo History
Five rehabilitated manatees were released back into the wild in February 2021 at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida. The rescue and rehabilitation, sponsored by the Jacksonville Zoo, was the largest such release in zoo history. Two of the rescued manatees, named Amelia and Irma, were orphaned as calves in 2017 and taken to SeaWorld Orlando to be raised. Manatee calves need to be large enough to be able to survive in the wild before they can be released, so they were taken to SeaWorld Orlando, one of the largest animal rescue and rehabilitation facilities in the world.
The three other manatees were rescued last winter by the zoo after suffering symptoms of cold stress. Cold stress occurs when manatees remain in water below 68 degrees Fahrenheit for an elongated period of time.
"Releasing these animals not only marks the successful rehabilitation of five more manatees, it also frees up critical space, so additional manatees can be treated at our zoo," said Craig Miller, curator of mammals at the Jacksonville Zoo. "It truly takes a team to protect this threatened species, and I could not be prouder of the dedication of all those involved with this program."
Manatees are large, plant-eating, aquatic mammals native to the marshy coastal areas of Florida. They are susceptible to violent collisions with watercraft, which is one of the leading causes of death for these animals. The average manatee measures more than 9 feet in length and weighs between 900 and 1,200 pounds. Manatees have been known to live more than 65 years in captivity.
SeaWorld and Manatee Rehabilitation
Known for popular interactive animal experiences and theme park attractions, SeaWorld also does important work with animal conservation, research, rescue, and rehabilitation. In its more than 50-year history, SeaWorld's Rescue Teams have rescued and rehabilitated more than 38,000 marine animals at their facilities. Also, the company's SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has raised more than $18 million and provided grants to more than 1,000 conservation projects around the world since the fund was created in 2003. According to the company's website, these conservation projects include "coral reef restoration, preventing coastal erosion, habitat protection and simply keeping our oceans clean." SeaWorld is quick to point out that every penny raised by the Conservation Fund goes toward these conservation projects.
The Manatee Rehabilitation Center at SeaWorld Orlando, where the Jacksonville Zoo orphans were brought, is the most successful manatee rehabilitation facility in the world. It operates in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and several Florida state agencies. The 5-acre complex, located adjacent to the theme park near the Turtle Trek area, is one of the few facilities in the world authorized to rescue and rehabilitate ill, injured, or orphaned manatees. To date, the facility has successfully rehabilitated and released 607 manatees into the wild. Manatees in Florida face a myriad of hazards. Thus, in addition to orphaned manatees, the SeaWorld facility helps animals that have been injured by crab trap lines, watercraft, shrimp nets, flood gates, and fishing lines.
SeaWorld Orlando guests can glimpse a part of the facility's operations via the park's new Manatee Rehabilitation tour. According to SeaWorld's website, the free tour offers visitors an opportunity to "see animals currently under rehabilitation as well as take a peek at the animals' medical charts, experience interactive exhibits, and even watch the animals interact in their pools via underwater viewing cameras and videos."
About SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando opened in 1973, and is one of four SeaWorld parks around the globe. The 200-acre park features a combination of roller coasters, interactive animal experiences and learning opportunities, animal exhibits, and water-based rides. SeaWorld Orlando hosts more than 4.5 million visitors each year and is the 10th most popular theme park in the United States.
SeaWorld offers a variety of ticket and pass options, including multi-park admission tickets in conjunction with Busch Gardens Tampa and Aquatica Orlando. For more about visiting SeaWorld Orlando and viewing the park's Manatee Rehabilitation Center, visit the park's website.