A regular winter visitor to Blue Spring State Park, a manatee named Georgia, was rescued by a SeaWorld Rescue Team assisted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff and volunteers on January 28, 2014. Park staff and the FWC had become increasingly concerned with Georgia's health as she appeared emaciated, lethargic and began exhibiting abnormal behavior. She was transported to SeaWorld for evaluation, care and rehabilitation.
Georgia is no stranger to SeaWorld staff. She had been rescued from Brunswick, Ga. in 1991 as an orphaned calf. For the next six years she received the attention and care of the SeaWorld team until 1997 when she was released back into the wild at Blue Spring State Park. At nearly six years of age she was more than ten feet long and weighed in at a hefty 1,635 pounds.
Over the following 17 years since her release she gave birth to six calves and grew another foot longer. She spent every winter in the warm waters of Blue Spring State Park with hundreds of fellow manatees. Georgia is one of the named manatees that is adoptable through the Save The Manatees Club.
Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist with the Save the Manatee Club, had written about Georgia's appearance and concern about her thinness in his blog. On January 28, 2014 he described her rescue. Hartley wrote how the East Coast Marine Mammal Recovery Team from the FWC greeted him at 8:30 a.m. for the rescue. After tagging and filming Georgia they attempted to herd her into an area to prepare for capture. This proved difficult for three people, as one might imagine with an animal her size, so SeaWorld was called to come assist with the rescue. Their rescue team arrived around 1:00 p.m. and within the hour they had herded Georgia into a net, then onto a stretcher where she was carried up the beach and stairs, across the boardwalk and into the waiting SeaWorld truck.
SeaWorld staff transported her to Orlando where the animal care team and veterinary staff performed a complete health exam. Antibiotic treatment and fluids were started and she will continue to be monitored while additional testing is done to determine what medical attention she will need.
Manatee populations are of concern in Florida and all species of manatees have declined throughout the world. As is true with many species, manatee populations have declined due to habitat loss, pollution, hunting, human interactions causing accidental injury and low reproduction rates. Many organizations are working diligently to restore healthy populations of these animals. SeaWorld is the global leader in the rescue and rehabilitation of the manatee.
For more information about Blue Spring State Park and to visit the manatees that winter there go to the Florida State Park website.