Meet the Manatees
As a second stage rehabilitation facility, the Museum provides a temporary home for manatees that will be released back into the wild after when they have returned to health. The Museum has cared for 36 rehabilitating manatees since 1998, with two of those currently in our care at this time.
Manatees are cared for in the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Aquarium, which includes both deep and shallow areas allowing the manatees to maintain natural feeding behaviors.
Current Manatees in the Habitat:
- ONeil was just a 30-pound orphan when he was rescued from Florida’s east coast near Merritt Island in Brevard County in July 2015. After being raised at SeaWorld, he is now much closer to the size he needs to be at release, but still has bit more to grow. “Manatees are typically about 60 pounds when they’re born so he was unusually small,” said Virginia Edmonds, Aquarium Director. “Perhaps he was premature. He was also having buoyancy issues so there were some problems with his lungs as well.” Today, ONeil is 565 pounds and a little over 7.5 feet long.
- Baca, a male suffering from cold stress when he was rescued from the Banana River in Cocoa Beach in 2017. Baca came to us in May 2017, weighing 389 pounds. He was 8 feet long and 675 pounds when he was released on March 7, 2019 near his original stranding location.
Some Common Reasons We Help Manatees:
Red Tide Exposure
A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organism). In Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes red tide is Karenia brevis, or K. brevis, which produces toxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine animals, including manatees.
Florida manatees are herbivores, feeding on aquatic vegetation like seagrasses. Small crustaceans and barnacles grow on the blades of seagrasses and feed by filtering out particles from the surrounding waters. During blooms, red tide toxins accumulate in these crustaceans and, as manatees feed on seagrasses, they inadvertently ingest these crustaceans and the toxins they hold. If they ingest enough of these toxins, they can become very ill or even die.
Manatees are also exposed the red tide toxins when they surface to breathe and can develop respiratory infections that can also be fatal.
Cold stress can occur when manatees spend prolonged periods of time in water colder than 68 degrees and begin having frost bite-like symptoms. They can also be susceptible to pneumonia.
Manatees typically spend the first one or two years of their lives with their mothers, learning the ropes of how to find food and warm-water spots where they can safely pass the winter. If their mothers die, they need extra care until they’re big enough to navigate their environment. These orphaned animals are typically released during the winter months into groups of manatees congregated in warm-water spots in the hopes that they will find “mentors” that will help them learn the routes to and from warm-water spots.