On Monday, Feb. 4, the South Florida Museum released the second of two manatees which were being cared for at their facility in Bradenton. “I’m very pleased to say that we just released both the young manatees that were undergoing rehabilitation at the South Florida Museum,” said Marilyn Margold, the Museum’s Director of Living Collections. “Both are tagged and will be monitored for up to a year to make sure they are adjusting well to life in the wild.”
Charlie, who was released on Monday morning at Homosassa Springs, was rescued in November of 2010 as a young calf with his mother, who had been hit by a boat. His mother did not survive and Charlie was bottle fed and taught to eat whole food at the Miami Seaquarium’s manatee hospital. “He came to the Museum in May of 2011 weighing only 400 pounds,” according to Margold. “He grew to a healthy 700 pounds and 8 feet in length to be ready for release.” Wild manatees are frequently seen at Homosassa Springs so releasing Charlie there offers good opportunity for him to “meet new friends and explore the wild safely. This is especially important since he was so young when he came into rehab and has to learn how to live in the wild,” she added. Two other manatees were released at the same time as Charlie: Wooten from the Miami Seaquarium and Laroc from the Lowry Park Zoo.
Epac, who was rescued in January of 2011 from Matlacha Pass near Cape Coral suffering from cold stress, was released on Jan. 23. “We like to release manatees back to the area where they came from, if possible, but Epac’s home habitat has been affected by red tide so the decision was made to release him at the southern-most warm water area free of red tide, which was Apollo Beach/ TECO,” Margold said. “He has been traveling along the Coast, close to shore, and he is being monitored closely.” Epac had been at the South Florida Museum since March of 2012 and grew steadily during his stay to a weight of 820 lbs. and length of 8 feet, 4 inches long.
Both manatees are fitted with GPS tags so biologists can monitor their movements and track them closely. The tag is housed in a float that is specially color coded for each manatee, so the biologists can immediately identify which manatee they are seeing. Additionally, the tracking gear is fitted with “weak links” that break apart to prevent any kind of entanglement.
Sea to Shore Alliance is the independent organization responsible for tracking and monitoring rehabilitated manatees after their release back to the wild. The follow-up tracking helps to ensure the manatee’s successful reacclimation back into the wild while also collecting information for researchers so rehabilitation practices can be continuously refined. You can follow the movements of Charlie and Epac online.
As part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership, the South Florida Museum is a second stage rehabilitation facility that provides a temporary home for manatees until they are ready for release back to the wild. The South Florida Museum has cared for 24 manatees as part of the rehabilitation program since joining the network in 1998.
The South Florida Museum is located at 201 10th Street West in downtown Bradenton. Current operating hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sundays, noon - 5 p.m. General admission is $15.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors (65 and over), $11.95 for children (ages 4-12). Children ages 3 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. The Museum will be closed on Monday, March 4, 2013. The South Florida Museum is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast, featuring engaging exhibits as well as educational programs which interpret the scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world and our universe. The facility includes the all-digital Bishop Planetarium Theater and Parker Manatee Aquarium which is home to Snooty™ the manatee, Manatee County’s most famous resident and the oldest known manatee in the world. Also featured are full-scale replicas of a 16th-century manor house, chapel and conquistador Hernando De Soto’s birthplace surrounding an open-air Spanish Plaza. For more information about current exhibitions and special programs, please call 941-746-4131 or visit their website.
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