In a fight for life, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has taken in and is actively rehabilitating an orphaned manatee calf named “Emoji.” Emoji received his name in honor of the Zoo’s recent petition to Unicode asking for the creation of the first-ever manatee emoji.
The calf was about two weeks old, weighing around 66 pounds, and was rescued from the Caloosahatchee River after being reported the previous day as an orphan calf by the public. He was transported to the Zoo by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Emoji was found with debris and plastic bags in his stomach. Many orphaned calves also mistakenly ingest fishing line, fishing hooks and other pollutants while searching for food. In the process of treating him, the veterinary staff also discovered 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. While doing better, Emoji may call the Zoo home for about two years before being released.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in a number of manatee rescues, rehabilitation and relocations. To date, the Zoo has cared for more than 400 wild manatees, treating illness and injuries related to boat strikes, cold stress, entanglement and red tide exposure. Much of this care occurs on-site at the Zoo’s David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Hospital, the only non-profit critical care hospital for manatees in the country.
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.