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Manatee "Emoji" 3-Month Update

Jan 25, 2017
Do you remember orphan manatee calf, "Emoji?" The cute, little seacow came to the Zoo with a stomach full of trash and a fight for life. After spending over two months receiving critical veterinary care, "Emoji" has made great health strides and looks to have a promising future. 

Watch this update from our Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Ray Ball, to learn more: 

Be sure to see Emoji at the Zoo and get nose-to-nose with him at our beautiful new, manatee habitat! 

UPDATE: On January 30, “Emoji” unfortunately passed away. The Zoo will perform a full necropsy, which will provide details on the exact cause of death. The manatee care staff are incredibly saddened by this loss and hope this serves as a teachable moment for the public on the dangers of plastic pollution.

“Emoji is a tragic illustration of the consequences that simple human actions have on the world around us,” said Dr. Ray Ball, senior veterinarian for Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. “Now more than ever, we must hold ourselves accountable, whether that’s keeping trash and plastics out of our waterways or being more mindful of potential consequences of propeller strikes on wildlife while boating.”

Among other dire health concerns, veterinarians also found Emoji had plastic bags in his stomach. Many orphaned calves also mistakenly ingest fishing line, fishing hooks and other pollutants while searching for food. While the Zoo’s animal care team was able to initially stabilize Emoji, his long-term odds remained uncertain given the number of health concerns he faced at such a young age.

Alongside helping educate the public about manatee care and the dangers of pollution, Emoji allowed the Zoo’s animal care team to learn more about critical manatee care. In the process of treating him, the veterinary staff discovered Emoji had a very common health issue with manatees called Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC). Emoji was both clotting and bleeding at the same time. Thankfully, more than six years of DIC research and discoveries made at the Zoo allowed the manatee care team to take a novel approach to stabilizing and improving his condition. What the Zoo learned in caring for Emoji will likely inform and benefit future manatee rescues and rehabilitations.

To date, more than 400 manatees have been treated at the Zoo. The veterinary team is specially-trained in manatee health, making the Zoo an international resource for manatee care. The Zoo remains steadfast in its commitment to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of manatees. In fact, the manatee care team will be participating in a number of manatee releases this week throughout the state.

As a memoriam of the young calf and a way to educate the public on the dangers that face this species in the wild, the Zoo will be continuing its campaign to develop a manatee emoji. “The more we can get people talking about manatees and ways to protect them, the better. It’s a lesson that a simple human behavior like not throwing trash in waterways, can prevent manatee injuries and deaths. The emoji would serve as a reminder and dedication to the manatee calf, it’s a promise that we will always be there to protect future manatees like him.” said Dr. Ball. 


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    • Tampa Bay City Pass
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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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