Pregnant manatee rescued by Mote Marine Laboratory and partners; rescued manatee gives birth in rehab at SeaWorld

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Two lives saved on Mother’s Day weekend

Pregnant manatee rescued by Mote Marine Laboratory and partners; rescued manatee gives birth in rehab at SeaWorld

May 12, 2020 Sarasota, FL —Thanks to a collaborative rescue effort over the weekend, two manatees may have second chances at life. A pregnant manatee was rescued by Mote Marine Laboratory and partners, and taken to SeaWorld Orlando, where the manatee has since given birth to a calf.
The Saturday before Mother’s Day, May 9, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium Stranding Biologist Jess Blackburn, along with Sarasota Police Department Marine Patrol Officer Michael Skinner, responded to a call to Mote’s 24/7 Stranding Investigations Program hotline (941-988-0212) about a distressed manatee near Harbor Towers Yacht & Racquet Club on Siesta Key. The manatee was exhibiting abnormal behavior, including not being able to dive properly. Upon arriving at the scene, Blackburn realized the manatee was the same individual she had received calls about and searched for the day before, and quickly contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to begin to stage a rescue effort for the manatee.

“Immediately, I noticed that the manatee was listing to one side, and had both healed and fresh boat strike wounds,” said Blackburn. “Those kinds of wounds likely caused air to be trapped in the manatee’s chest cavity, making it difficult for the animal to submerge efficiently. Given the busy area and heavy boat traffic, we knew it would be very difficult for her to avoid any other potential boat collisions.”

After Mote’s initial response, FWC led the rescue effort, as additional trained responders from Mote, Sarasota Police Department, and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office descended upon the scene to assist the manatee. A crowd gathered on the shoreline to watch the action. The manatee was safely netted onto a boat and transferred into a transport truck–—no small feat with a nearly 1,700-pound animal—headed for rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando, one of four critical care facilities for manatees in the state of Florida and a member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP).

“The Sarasota Police Department Marine Patrol officers as well as other patrol officers have an ongoing partnership with Mote’s Stranding Investigations team,” said Sarasota Police Officer Michael Skinner. “Over the weekend, we were called to assist with an injured manatee along with our partners at Mote, FWC and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. We all work together on the road and on the water. We hate to see injured wildlife in our waterways but we’re hoping this team effort was enough to help give this manatee a second chance.”

“It was an amazing opportunity to rescue, along with partners from Mote, FWC law enforcement, Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, an expectant mother manatee on Mother’s Day weekend,” said Denise Boyd, Marine Mammal Research Associate at FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “They are being taken care of by the animal care team at SeaWorld Orlando, and we are hopeful for a successful outcome. This rescue highlights the partnerships that are critical in manatee conservation efforts. Please remember to wear polarized glasses and be on the lookout for manatees while boating. Please report dead or distressed marine mammals to allow trained experts to respond.”

During the veterinarian exam at SeaWorld Orlando, the animal was found to be pregnant. On Tuesday, May 12, the manatee gave birth to a healthy calf. SeaWorld Orlando’s rehabilitation team continues to monitor both mother and calf around the clock. The mother manatee is being treated for her injuries, and although stable, she is still in critical condition.

“After getting the call, our team reacted quickly to accept this manatee into our care and our team of veterinarians at the SeaWorld Manatee Rehabilitation Center is providing around the clock surveillance,” said Jon Peterson, Vice President Zoological Operations, SeaWorld Orlando. “Our facility is only one of four in Florida designated for critical care of manatees and we work tirelessly with the goal of rehabilitating and returning rescued manatees to the wild.” This is the 17th manatee to be treated at SeaWorld in 2020.

“These are the good days. When all of our partners come together, from our city, county, and state law enforcement officers, to the FWC stranding biologists that led the rescue, to the SeaWorld Orlando team now caring for her and her calf, it is our stranding network at its finest,” said Gretchen Lovewell, Manager of Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program. “I also want to thank the members of the public who reported the animal. Please, always remember to call us for any distressed or deceased marine mammal or sea turtle in the Sarasota and Manatee County area, and FWC throughout the rest of Florida.”
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About Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, based in Sarasota, Florida, has conducted marine research since its founding as a small, one-room laboratory in 1955. Since then, Mote has grown to encompass more than 20 research and conservation programs that span the spectrum of marine science: sustainable aquaculture systems designed to alleviate growing pressures on wild fish populations; red tide research that works to inform the public and mitigate the adverse effects of red tide with innovative technologies; marine animal science, conservation and rehabilitation programs dedicated to the protection of animals such as sea turtles, manatees and dolphins; and much more. Mote Aquarium, accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, is open 365 days per year. Learn more at mote.org or connect with @motemarinelab on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Sarasota Police Department
The Sarasota Police Department utilizes a proactive, intelligence led law enforcement strategy to prevent and reduce crime. Our mission: Professional, dedicated police service in partnership with our community. For more information about our department, visit www.sarasotapd.org

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter, and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The Company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care. The Company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The Company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 36,000 animals in need over the last 55 years.

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens®, Aquatica®, Sesame Place® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 55-year history, the Company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The Company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., a publicly traded company. Visit www.seaworldentertainment.com for more information.

L: Responders from Mote, FWC, and local law enforcement bring the manatee to shore to be put on a transport truck. Photo credit: Sarasota Police Department
R: Injured manatee had both older and fresh boat strike wounds on its back. Photo credit: Mote Marine Laboratory
About Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, based in Sarasota, Florida, has conducted marine research since its founding as a small, one-room laboratory in 1955. Since then, Mote has grown to encompass more than 20 research and conservation programs that span the spectrum of marine science: sustainable aquaculture systems designed to alleviate growing pressures on wild fish populations; red tide research that works to inform the public and mitigate the adverse effects of red tide with innovative technologies; marine animal science, conservation and rehabilitation programs dedicated to the protection of animals such as sea turtles, manatees and dolphins; and much more. Mote Aquarium, accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, is open 365 days per year. Learn more at mote.org or connect with @motemarinelab on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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