TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two baby manatees rescued from the discharge canal at TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach on Tuesday are recovering at ZooTampa.
The orphaned manatees were rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Both calves were found emaciated. ZooTampa veterinarians are now working night and day to get these manatees feeling better and weighing more.
“So we give them fluids, nutritional support through what we call a nasal gastric tube. And we also administer medications that way as well. It’s really important to keep them hydrated, try and start them on nutrition. These guys are super emaciated so we have to make some gains,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, staff veterinarian at ZooTampa.
She explained the calves will receive this tube daily. Veterinarians are also able to listen to a manatee’s breathing and gastric issues through the tube.
The calves will also be dewormed and given medications for any bacterial infections that could arise.
Supervisor of the Florida Mammals Department at the Zoo, Jaime Vaccaro, explained these little manatees are considered “naïve,” meaning they didn’t have a mom to show them where to migrate in winter months.
While the water at the TECO Manatee Viewing Center is warm, there isn’t any seagrass for the manatees to eat.
Manatees often go in and out of the canal to find food before returning to the warm water.
“These calves should be with a mom right now. So they would be considered dependent. So it’s important we address the nutritional needs. Out in the wild they would not be able to make it,” Dr. Smith explained.
“We’re getting into cooler water temps and the warm water sites that they go to don’t have a lot of food available for them. It’s critical that these animals come in, so we really appreciate everyone who keeps an eye out and reports to FWC so we can get on their cases.”
Vaccaro explained that based on their ages, they will remain at ZooTampa for up to a year and a half while they get up to normal, healthy weights and medically cleared.
“At which point they are fitted with a tracking device or a satellite tag and they’re monitored. And we’ll put them into, I know it sounds weird, but put them into, on a really cold day, into a body of water where they should have migrated to, so probably right there back at TECO Power Plant,” she explained.
According to the zoo’s website, they have treated over 400 manatees since 1991. More than 230 of those manatees have been returned to Florida waters.
ZooTampa recently upgraded a water filtration system at their Manatee Critical Care Center, allowing the facility to provide advanced care and to treat the most severe cases.
To report an injured or distressed manatee, call 1-888-404-FWCC.