TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature announced it has secured over half a million dollars in state funding to expand its manatee care program.

The announcement of $547,000 in state funds (appropriated to the museum by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC) comes as the Unusual Mortality Event of the West Indian manatee continues on Florida’s east coast, due mostly to lack of seagrass and forage for the animal.

The Bishop has plans to lease and operate an existing facility in Myakka City to be a part of its effort to care for as many manatees as possible.

According to the Bishop, the overall capacity of the statewide manatee care network could be increased by 10%.

The museum hopes to have the facility operational by the end of 2022.

One of the rehabilitation pools onsite in Myakka City, FL, that The Bishop’s Animal Care team plans to retrofit in order to rehabilitate and monitor more of Florida’s manatees (Courtesy: Bishop Museum of Science and Nature)

The Bishop was also recently approved for “acute care status,” which means the facility can now accept and provide treatment for rescued manatees in need of hospital care.

Previously, the museum had operated as a secondary care facility for manatees who were not yet ready to return to the wild after hospital care.

The Bishop is one of five facilities federally authorized to treat sick, injured or orphaned Florida manatees.

“The Myakka property and FWC funding are providing an opportunity for The Bishop not only to increase the number of manatees we can help, but also the way in which we help them,” said Hillary Spencer, CEO of The Bishop. “The work that Virginia Edmonds, our Director of Animal Care, the Animal Care team, and Museum veterinarian Dr. David Murphy are doing is impactful already, but this expansion will redefine The Bishop’s role in the animal care community.”

The Myakka City facility will not be open to the public for viewing, but the recently remodeled exhibition of recovering manatees at the museum’s downtown Bradenton location is.

The Bishop has cared for rehabilitated manatees since 1998 and was a founding member of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership in 2001.

According to FWC, as of July 15, a total of 631 manatees have died in Florida in 2022. At this time in 2021, a total of 864 had died.

To report a sick, injured or dead manatee, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC, or *FWC or #FWC on a cell phone.