A pregnant manatee is now a mother thanks to a timely rescue over Mother’s Day weekend.
The story starts Saturday, when a boater reported seeing a manatee struggling to submerge near the near Harbor Towers Yacht and Racquet Club off Siesta Key.
A Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium biologist and Sarasota police marine officer arrived, and discovered that the manatee was acting abnormally and had old boat-strike wounds on its side — and fresh ones.
“Immediately, I noticed that the manatee was listing to one side, and had both healed and fresh boat strike wounds,” Mote Marine Lab biologist Jess Blackburn said in a statement. “Those kinds of wounds likely caused air to be trapped in the manatee’s chest cavity, making it difficult for the animal to submerge efficiently. Given the busy area and heavy boat traffic, we knew it would be very difficult for her to avoid any other potential boat collisions.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was called in to stage a rescue. Aquarium personnel, officers and deputies all descended on the scene.
The 1,700-pound manatee was safely netted onto a boat, then put into a transport truck and taken to SeaWorld Orlando. There, it was placed in a critical care facility made specifically for manatees.
Veterinarians discovered the manatee was pregnant.
Then on Tuesday, it successfully gave birth to a baby calf.
A release from SeaWorld Orlando says the calf is healthy. The mother, though stable, remains in critical condition.
“They are being taken care of by the animal care team at SeaWorld Orlando, and we are hopeful for a successful outcome," Denise Boyd, a marine mammal research associate with the wildlife commission, said in a statement. “This rescue highlights the partnerships that are critical in manatee conservation efforts.”