TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – SeaWorld Orlando and DHL Express joined forces to transport a rehabilitated manatee from Texas to Florida for its release after eight months at SeaWorld San Antonio.

The manatee was rescued in Dec. 2021 and taken to SeaWorld San Antonio. It was found suffering from cold stress, flipper damage and other ailments. It was severely underweight.

According to SeaWorld, while the West Indian manatee is most commonly found it Florida, the animal has seemingly seasonally migrated more frequently in recent years to other southern states.

The rescued animal in 2021 is only the third manatee the San Antonio facility has rehabilitated.

When the manatee was healthy enough for transport and release, SeaWorld turned to its partner DHL Express to facilitate the manatee’s transport.

DHL Express transported the manatee in a custom container built specifically to hold manatees in accordance with the requirements of the International Animal Transport Association (IATA.)

The container housing the manatee was designed with high-density, lightweight, insulated foam, secured on a palette attached to the floor so it remained stable. The manatee was covered in blankets to make sure it maintained a healthy body temperature. It was constantly monitored during the flight by SeaWorld animal care specialists who used laser thermometers. The manatee was also misted with water under the blankets throughout the flight.

Cain Moodie, SVP of Network Operations and Aviation for DHL Express Americas, said this was their fifth manatee successfully transferred through their global hub in Cincinnati this year.

“Moving manatees is an intricate process, so the speed and reliability of our air network, coupled with the extensive logistics planning with SeaWorld and their partners, helps ensure these wonderful creatures get back safely to their natural habitat,” said Moodie.

The manatee arrived at SeaWorld Orlando and was monitored for 48 hours to make sure its health had not been impacted by travel.

Once the manatee was cleared for release, members of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership, including SeaWorld Orlando, USFWS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and more worked together to return the manatee to Kings Bay in Crystal River Thursday morning.

The manatee was tagged for a Dauphin Island Sea Lab project that is investigating manatee habitat use and distribution throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico.

During the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event for manatees on Florida’s east coast, critical rehabilitation space for manatees has been limited, especially during the colder months of 2022. Vice President of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld San Antonio Steve Aibel said their facility is “always ready to help manatees in need, when necessary.”