After three months of rehabbing at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, a manatee calf and its mom returned to the wild Tuesday.
The manatees were released from the War Veterans’ Memorial Park boat ramp in St. Petersburg.
In April residents who live along Boca Cieaga Bay noticed the juvenile manatee floating above water for several days. They called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and officials found the manatee was excessively buoyant. That means he couldn’t go under the water and nurse from his mom.
That’s when the manatee and his mom were taken to the zoo. Veterinarians discovered the baby had an air bubble that kept it from diving down under the water. Doctors decided to let the bubble go away naturally.
Three months later the little manatee doubled its body weight and received a clean bill of health.
Virginia Edmonds from the Lowry Park Zoo explained why they didn’t separate the calf from its mother.
“Manatee calf will stay with their mom for up to two years so had he come to the zoo by himself, we would have had to bottle feed him and then he would have to stay at the zoo for two years before we could release him. So bringing her in is way better,” Edmonds said.
She said they did not put a tracking device on either manatee but did put a chip on both animals to identify them if they ever need care again.