- Title: USA: WOUNDED MANATEES (SEA COWS) FIND SANCTUARY IN FLORDA ZOO
- Date: 26th February 2004
- Summary: (L!1) TAMPA, FLORIDA , UNITED STATES (FILE (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BEACHED MANATEES
- Embargoed: 12th March 2004 12:00
- Location: BOCA RATON AND TAMPA, FLORIDA , UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Environment
- Reuters ID: LVA11REV94ILELHBYUR820FWWLQ8
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Endangered manatees find rest and relaxation in Florida.
Florida is a common wintertime haven in the United States, but for some 3,000 West Indian manatees, an animal that looks something like an overgrown seal and whose closest land relative is an elephant, it is not always warm enough - they succumb to frost bite.
While sunbathers may find refuge in Florida in the wintertime, once the water drops below 68 degrees manatees are at risk of frostbite, which causes their skin to fall off, eventually leading to death. Unlike dolphins or seals, manatees do not have many layers of fat, and carry weight more akin to humans.
It is not just the weather that can pose a threat to manatees, they are often struck by boats, are crushed in canal locks, swallow fish hooks, are caught in crab trap lines or come down with a virus called Red Tide.
Manatees have been declared and Endangered Species since 1973. About 8 percent of the manatee population is lost each year.
Within the United States, West Indian manatees are concentrated in Florida in the winter, but they can be found in summer months as far west as Texas and as far north as Virginia. On average, they are about three meters (9.8 feet) long and weigh between 362-544 kilograms (800-1,200 pounds).
The State of Florida has three official critical care units to treat injured Manatees, including a facility at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. Last year the Lowry Park facility treated some 17 injured Manatees. The idea is to treat them, and then release them. To date, the hospital has cared for more than 125 manatees.
"The first time the animal comes in, there's a lot of activity," said Virginia Edmonds, the Assistant Curator at the Lowry Park Zoo. "Then it's like an ICU ward, from there on it is intensive care for sometimes weeks until the animals are up to par, or up to the health they need to be."
Manatees with frostbite need to be fed a combination of vitamins and antibiotics through their nose, at least one time a day. Their skin is cleaned, and treated with a mixture of iodine. Approximately 85 to 90 percent of those surviving the first 48 hours have recovered and been successfully released back into the wild.
At the Lowry Park Zoo it costs $300 a day, just to feed the Manatees, and they eat up more than half of the Zoo's $10 million budget. Initially manatee's are kept in small treatment pools, and later are moved to a larger pool with a glass viewing center, as a final testing ground before they are ready for release.
The caretakers at Lowry Park, simply treat the animals, making no effort to befriend them. "We want to make sure that the Manatee that we get in is as wild as when they leave as when they come in. We don't want to do anything to effect their behavior -- we want them to be a Manatee," Edmonds said.
Manatees can live up to 60 years old. On average one calf is born every two to five years. The gestation period is about a year, and mothers nurse their young for one to two years.
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