TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Red tide continues to take a toll on the Tampa Bay area, and it’s been particularly rough for local manatees.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescued a manatee near Sarasota Monday. It was taken to ZooTampa by Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium for life-saving care.
The manatee was found unresponsive to the effects of red tide, which can cause seizures and paralysis in manatees.
“If they’re unconscious or having a seizure they can’t control their body in a way they can surface for air, so they can drown,” Dr. Melissa Nau said.
Dr. Nau says Zoo Tampa has helped 23 manatees this year with many different issues. Several of them have been impacted by red tide.
“It’s something we don’t have a lot of tools to prevent and help them in the wild, but there are things we can do to help with the environment, try to prevent runoff,” Nau said.
An FWC report shows that Florida has seen almost 900 manatee deaths this year, which is more than the previous record from 2013.
Doctor Nau says if you see a manatee that looks like it’s in trouble call FWC.
“Red tide is a difficult thing to manage and deal with but we can help the animals we find that are in distress from it,” Nau said.
The Zoo’s David A. Straz, Jr Critical Care Center is one of only four facilities of its kind that specializes in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick, injured and orphaned manatees.
Dr. Nau says the goal is to get this latest manatee healthy and back into the wild.
To report a distressed or dead manatee, Floridians and visitors can go online to the FWC website or call 888-404-FWCC. Cell phone users can also call #FWC or *FWC.