Rescued manatee released in natural Florida habitat after flying over 1,000 miles

CRYSTAL RIVER, Florida: A large manatee made its way back home on Wednesday (Jul 28) after months of rehabilitation and an over 1,000-mile flight from Texas to its natural habitat in Florida.

Rescuers say the manatee was rescued in January in Texas and spent nearly seven months recuperating from severe injuries at the SeaWorld marine mammal park in San Antonio.

“The animal was in critical condition, cold-stunted, emaciated and very, very sick,” said Nicholas Ricci, senior animal care specialist for SeaWorld Parks.

Once the manatee recovered, it was time to return to its natural environment along the western coast of Florida.

That’s when German shipping giant DHL, part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, stepped in to transport the large mammal via cargo plane to release it back into wild.

“We think we’ve given him the best chance at success, and we just can’t tell you how much of a partnership story this was from start to finish,” said Terri Calleson, Florida manatee recovery lead for US Fish and Wildlife Service. “It was a total team effort.”

Monica Ross, director of manatee research and conservation at Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, said the manatee is being fitted with a GPS satellite tag along with a very high frequency (VHF) transmitter to be able to track the mammal.

“What they’re trying to do is to assess how manatees use habitat outside of Florida,” said Ross. “So, we’re kind of hoping he’ll want to try and go back to Texas a little bit. We’ll get some good data in the movement, but then we’re hoping by releasing him here, he understands this is where he needs to come back for warm water in the winter time.”