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Manatee-rescue devices urged

The rescue this week of an injured manatee from Kings Bay has sparked a push among manatee advocates for a better way to get ailing sea cows from the water to medical facilities. "We need a "man-bulance' _ a manatee ambulance _ to do this sort of work," said Cameron Shaw, manager of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and a participant in the manatee rescue Tuesday.

The rescued manatee remained in critical condition in an isolation tank at the Sea World park near Orlando on Wednesday.

The emaciated manatee, netted after a dive instructor noticed the animal swimming on its side, is suffering from an old boat injury, experts say. It was being tube-fed and treated with antibiotics.

On Tuesday, members of the local manatee rescue team used a pickup truck to transfer the injured animal to medical facilities at Sea World.

A better vehicle, or "man-bulance," would need to include a variety of equipment including a hydraulic lift to get the animal on board. This week's rescue required six people using a canvas stretcher to lift the 330-pound manatee.

Other equipment might include jump seats for rescue team workers and a water-spraying system to keep the animals damp during the trip.

When the county's manatee rescue team, operated through Shaw's office, has been involved in rescuing an injured manatee, transportation has been provided by Sea World, or the team has rented a truck.

"Somehow I don't think that a manatee's well-being should depend on a rent-a-truck," said Helen Spivey, president of Concerned Citizens of Citrus County.

Shaw said he spoke last week with officials from the statewide Save the Manatee organization about raising money to purchase such a vehicle. That organization is teaming with Concerned Citizens of Citrus County to raise the necessary funds, Spivey said Wednesday.

No cost estimate is available for the vehicle, she said.

No plans have been set on how Concerned Citizens and Save the Manatee will raise the needed money.

Spivey said she hopes to find support from the local business community, residents and divers who come to the area to see the gentle marine mammals.