So far, a record number of 270 wild manatee deaths have been associated with Red Tide in Southwest Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its partners were able to rescue 16 manatees sickened by the toxin. Each was taken to the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo for critical care, where all but one survived.
The 15 survivors will soon be returned to Florida waters, starting with two on Thursday. Among the first to go home will be Cida, a 605-pound female who arrived on March 22 from Placida Harbor. Cida will be the 176th manatee released after rehabilitation at the zoo from a total of 320 treated. Lowry Park Zoo currently has 12 manatee patients.
A second manatee, known as Gibb, a 1,058-pound male, also received urgent care at the zoo after being rescued on Oct. 26 from Placida Harbor. He will be released into the wild by staff at Sea World Orlando, where he has been housed since March 6 to ensure the zoo's manatee hospital facility had space to accommodate critical care patients.
The manatee hospital at Lowry Park is the only critical care facility to treat manatees sick from Red Tide during this bloom. Of the 15 red tide survivors, 10 of those animals are currently housed at the zoo. Three others were transferred to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and two were sent to Sea World Orlando, where they will stay until release. The zoo has now taken in 320 manatees for critical care and rehabilitation since 1991 for a variety of severe illnesses and catastrophic injuries including boat strikes, cold stress, orphans, entanglement and Red Tide.