Story at a glance
- A baby manatee and its mother were released into Florida’s St. John’s River near Blue Springs State Park in Volusia County.
- Researchers observed signs of emaciation in the mother over winter and rescued the pair in March.
- The two spent four months at SeaWorld Orlando being rehabilitated.
Amid a grim outlook for Florida’s manatee population, a pair of manatees is offering a tiny bit of hope.
A baby manatee and its mother were released into Florida’s St. John’s River Wednesday near Blue Springs State Park in Volusia County after a successful rehabilitation, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
The two manatees — the mother named Mandy and her 1-year-old calf named Manilow, inspired by Barry Manilow’s song “Mandy”— spent four months at SeaWorld Orlando as the mother gained weight under the watch of staff.
Researchers observed signs of emaciation in the mother over winter and rescued the pair in March. Mandy weighed about 900 pounds, considerably underweight for a manatee her age.
Over the course of her rehabilitation, she gained about 300 pounds. Mandy’s calf was healthy during the stay at SeaWorld Orlando.
“She was underweight,” Ally Greco, of Save the Manatee Club, told the local news outlet. “However, this was not related to the starvation that was seen this winter in the Indian River Lagoon, as there was plenty of vegetation available near Blue Spring.”
The release of Mandy and Manilow into the wild comes as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that a record number of manatees have already died this year in Florida due to starvation.
At least 841 manatee deaths occurred between Jan. 1 and July 2, 2021, surpassing the previous record of 830 deaths that were reported during the whole of 2013.
Officials said the main reason for the high number of deaths is declining water quality that caused seagrass to die, particularly in the Indian River Lagoon that extends from Volusia County to northern Palm Beach County.
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