HOMOSASSA SPRINGS — Amanda, the manatee that sparked a statewide debate in 2009 about releasing long-captive animals into the wild, has died at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Amanda was taken out of the water Tuesday morning so that the park staff could perform a biopsy of an enlarged mammary gland. The procedure, which was considered routine, was completed but Amanda never woke up from sedation, said park manager Art Yerian.
"She's been here for 25 years," he said. "It was a sad day."
In late 2009, Amanda and another manatee, Electra, were pulled from the spring run at the state park in Citrus County and put into a separate holding area to be prepared for release into the wild. The park is a part of the federal rehabilitation and release program and had been cleared to release captives back into the wild.
But the public was worried because Amanda had spent 36 years in captivity and never developed the skills needed to survive in the wild. The outcry prompted the Citrus County Commission to adopt a resolution opposing the idea. State Sen. Mike Fasano visited the park and spoke against the release.
Hearing the strong public sentiment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Environmental Protection agreed to call off the release and revisit it later. Yerian said decisions on possible releases of the six remaining park manatees have not yet been made.
Amanda was one of the manatees that was part of the Save the Manatee Adopt a Manatee program. The club's executive director, Pat Rose, said that letters would soon be sent to those who had adopted Amanda.
Rescued Christmas Day 1973 after suffering a severe boat propeller injury, Amanda spent her early years in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium. She was moved to Homosassa Springs in 1986.
The manatee was taken to St. Petersburg for a necropsy. Yerian expects results next month.