APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – ZooTampa employees are working to rehabilitate a record number of manatees and one was released into its own waters Wednesday morning!
This 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 dead.
Chandler, a 720-pound manatee, was released into the water Wednesday morning at the TECO Manatee Viewing Center and it was a bittersweet moment for many. 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 circling and every time he came up his nose was tan,” said Tampa Bay resident Joy Ramond.
A year ago, Joy Raymond was cycling near Portosueno Park in Manatee County when she saw a manatee playing stressed out in the water.
“So went home and called FWC,” Raymond said.
A year later, that manatee is finally healthy.
Molly Lippincott, Florida Manatees Curator at ZooTampa, says, “Today we released Chandler the Manatee. He came to us last year for cold stress syndrome, and he recovered beautifully and it was time for him to be released home. ”
Chandler was finally able to swim in open water again after a year of rehabilitation at ZooTampa.
“I have no doubt that he’s going to do well there,” said Lippincott.
Lippincott has cared for Chandler for the past year, ever since he came down with hypothermia.
“Especially him, he definitely had to put on some weight, and that’s typical when they suffer from cold stress,” Lippincott said.
She says Chandler has gained about 300 pounds since coming to ZooTampa, but he’s not the only one who needs help. Lippincott is currently helping to rehabilitate 19 different manatees at the facility.
“Right now we are feeding 1,300 pounds of food to our animals,” 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.
“It was very discouraging and disheartening to have such a deadly year,” Lippincott said.
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 is important. Hopefully we’ve made a difference in the world and he will eventually have some babies of his own,” Lippincott said.
“I’m glad he’s there, but then he’s not as safe as being in an aquarium, but he has to go outside to be with the other manatees,” Raymond said.