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For the Love of Manatees

Celebrate Manatees, Sign the Emoji Campaign Petition

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Celebrate Manatee Awareness

If you’re in Florida, you know that the manatee is a state icon and critical to our natural environment. At Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, we love manatees and do our part to rescue, rehabilitate and release them back into the wild.

Manatee Facts

  • Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has cared for more than 400 manatees.
  • 71 calves have been treated to-date.
  • 82 manatees are injured by boat strike each year.
  • Rescued manatees stay an average of 173 days at our hospital.
  • It takes $30,000 per month to feed the manatees, making them the most expensive species to feed at the Zoo.

How can you Help?

By partnering with the Zoo in our mission to care for manatees, you play a role in protecting them from environmental threats.





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. 

  • Tampa Bay City Pass
  • Association of Zoos and Aquariums
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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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Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.