This national holiday weekend, the manatee rehabilitation team at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is encouraging Florida boaters to watch for manatees and abide by “No Wake Zones” in areas that help protect manatees at higher risk with increased boat traffic.
New Manatee Patient with Catastrophic Boat Injury and Dependent Calf are Reminder of Dangers Posed by Watercraft
TAMPA, Fla. (July 1, 2016) – This national holiday weekend, the manatee rehabilitation team at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is encouraging Florida boaters to watch for manatees and abide by “No Wake Zones” in areas that help protect manatees at higher risk with increased boat traffic.
The Zoo’s manatee hospital, one of only a few such facilities in the world specifically dedicated to critical care for wild manatees, is treating a new, severely wounded mother manatee with a catastrophic boat injury to her spine from a boat propeller. Her injury also affects her 90-pound dependent calf, estimated to be only a few months old, who will need to learn to forage at a much earlier age as her mother cannot produce adequate nutrition for her due to her injuries.
“This particular case has a greater impact as it affects not only the current individual, but also the next generation,” said Dr. Ray L. Ball, Senior Veterinarian and Director of Medical Sciences. “While the adult female has a very poor prognosis, and may not survive her injuries, the Zoo’s manatee hospital offers refuge for her calf who has a good chance at survival and reintroduction.”
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo works with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to provide veterinary support for native Florida wildlife including manatees, panthers and black bears. The Zoo has received more than 400 wild manatees for critical care for a variety of severe illnesses and catastrophic injuries including boat strikes, cold stress, orphans, entanglement and red tide exposure. Of those, more than 230 have survived and been returned to Florida waters.
Boats and personal watercraft of all types and sizes can severely injure or kill manatees. In 2016, manatee watercraft-related deaths are outpacing the previous record year, which was 2009, according to data analyzed by the Save The Manatee Club.
“Since 1991, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has been treating manatees for a variety of illnesses and injuries. We have dedicated a great deal or resources, both human and financial, to ensuring the welfare of this treasured Florida species,” noted Dr. Larry Killmar, Chief Zoological Officer, Senior Vice President and Zoo Director. “Considering many of our critical care cases are related to watercraft injuries, we are encouraging boaters – especially during holiday reasons with increased traffic – to abide by the ‘No Wake Zone’ warnings which are in place to help protect manatees from the catastrophic collisions we see.”
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellular phone.