According to Fish and Wildlife Institute representatives, calls started coming in to their facility at approximately 10:30 a.m. The callers told them the manatee was “swimming erratically and having trouble balancing, even rolling and listing in the water.”
The location was given as the “south end of Boca Grande,” which turned out to be near Buttonwood Bay Drive in Boca Bay.
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Florida Fish and Wildlife officers responded with their manatee rescue and research book, and got the manatee out of the water. The male manatee, approximately 1,060 pounds and 10-feet long, was then transported to Lowry Park Zoo’s David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Hospital by truck.
Researchers at the manatee hospital confirmed that the manatee was suffering from red tide exposure, but at this time he is doing well.
“This male had clinical presentation and history consistent with red tide (brevitoxin),” said Rachel Nelson, the director of public relations for the zoo. “He seems to have responded well to a dose of steroids and supportive care.”
Manatees that present symptoms of red tide are lethargic, unable to come up for breath on their own. Some have temporary paralysis, weakness and involuntary twitching movements. Supportive care includes close supervision with the patient fitted in a floatation device (life jacket and noodles) and placement in a shallow water medical pool to prevent drowning. Once breathing improves, water depth is gradually increased to facilitate swimming which helps to clear the toxin from the gastrointestinal system.
Believe it or not, the manatee hospital has perfected a type of flotation device to help the manatees feel more comfortable during their recovery. The manatee “swim noodle” is put on the manatee’s body, and keeps it upright when it is “feeling listless,” so to speak.
The researchers said that while several types of food were offered to the manatee, he seemed to prefer his average native Florida plant diet. He is eating well and is now in a public viewing pool at the zoo.
The Lowry Park Zoo is also the only not-for-profit facility in the world that is specifically dedicated to manatee rescue and rehabilitation. Sea World and Miami Aquarium rescue manatees on the east coast of Florida, and Lowry Park Zoo rescues manatees from Key West to Texas. Lowry Park Zoo David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital is only one of three facilities in the State of Florida authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission for critical care and rehabilitation of injured or sick manatees and orphaned calves.
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