FORT MYERS, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and partners released seven rehabilitated manatees Tuesday in Cape Coral. These manatees were rescued during the recent red tide bloom in southwest Florida.
“We are very pleased that so many of the manatees we rescued from the effects of red tide have recovered to reach this point,” said Andy Garrett, an FWC biologist and Florida’s manatee rescue coordinator. “Our staff and partners worked very hard during the red tide to get to distressed manatees in time.”
The FWC and partners rescued 16 manatees suffering from the effects of a red tide bloom that was documented from late last September to April. Fifteen manatees survived after they were initially taken to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for treatment. Two rehabilitated red tide-affected manatees were released in June, and more releases are scheduled later this month.
Five of the seven manatees released Tuesday remained at the zoo for the duration of their rehabilitation. Earlier this year, the other two manatees were moved to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to ensure the zoo had space for critical care cases.
The Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership – a cooperative effort of several nonprofit, private, state and federal organizations – helps to coordinate the releases of rehabilitated manatees and monitors their health upon return to the wild.
Red tide is the primary cause of death for 272 manatees in 2013, a single-year record. Manatees are exposed to the red tide toxin mainly through ingestion of food such as seagrass with accumulated toxin levels.