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Jun 11, 2013

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo Prepares to Release 15 Red Tide Survivors

In 2013, a preliminary record number of 270 wild manatee deaths have been associated with an algae bloom known as red tide in Southwest Florida waters. Through extensive response efforts of The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its partners, 16 manatees overcome by the toxin were able to be rescued, clinging to life. Each was transported to the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for critical care, where all but one survived. The 15 red tide survivors will soon be returned to Florida waters, starting with two on June 13.

First Survivors Returning Home This Week, More To Follow In July

TAMPA, Fla. (June 11, 2013) — In 2013, a preliminary record number of 270 wild manatee deaths have been associated with an algae bloom known as red tide in Southwest Florida waters. Through extensive response efforts of The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its partners, 16 manatees overcome by the toxin were able to be rescued, clinging to life. Each was transported to the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for critical care, where all but one survived. The 15 red tide survivors will soon be returned to Florida waters, starting with two on June 13.

Among the first to go home will be “Cida,”a 605-pound female who arrived March 22 from Placida Harbor. Cida will be the 176th manatee released after rehabilitation at the Zoo from a total of 320 treated, with 12 current patients. A second manatee known as “Gibb,” a 1,058pound male who received urgent care at the Zoo upon arrival on October 26, 2012 from Placida Harbor, will be released by staff at Sea World Orlando where he has been housed since March 6 to ensure the Zoo’s manatee hospital facility had space to accommodate critical care patients.

The manatee hospital at the Zoo is the only critical care facility to treat manatees sick from red tide during this bloom. Of the 15 red tide survivors, 10 of those animals are currently housed onsite at the Zoo. Three others were previously transferred to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and two to Sea World Orlando, where they will reside until release.

The Zoo has now taken in 320 manatees for critical care and rehabilitation since 1991 for a variety of severe illnesses and catastrophic injuries including boat strikes, cold stress, orphans, entanglement and red tide exposure. In 2012, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo was honored with a “Significant Achievement in North American Conservation Award” for its work with manatees, presented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) is the lead on manatee rescues, assists in manatee releases, conducts applied research, and provides scientific information used to protect, conserve and manage Florida's marine resources. For more information, visit www.MyFWC.com/Research or contact Kevin Baxter at (727) 502-4789. To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

The David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is the only non-profit hospital in the world specifically dedicated to critical care for injured, sick and orphaned wild manatees. The Zoo works in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its Florida Wildlife Research Institute to rescue, rehabilitate and release Florida’s endangered manatees. The Zoo has received a $500,000 challenge match from Tampa residents Marylou and Jim Bailey dedicated to make significant improvements to the Zoo’s manatee facilities. Every two dollars received from the community will be matched by one dollar from the Bailey family to raise a total of $1.5 million.

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Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to excellence in education, conservation and research. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and is featured among the “Top 25 Zoos in the U.S” by TripAdvisor (2015) and “10 Best Zoos in the U.S.” by Trekaroo (2015). The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, one mile west of I-275 (exit 48) and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 

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