Manatees are beautiful, peaceful animals, and they need all the help they can get. Living near the shore in proximity to humans can put them in danger, whether due to accidents like boating collisions or intentional harassment.
But thankfully, there are also many kind people dedicated to helping save and protect these creatures. Like the staff at ZooTampa’s Manatee Critical Care Center, who treat these animals when they are in need.
And recently, they had an extra-adorable patient: an orphaned manatee, who is the tiniest they’ve ever seen.
The 44-pound manatee was found as an orphan in the Gulf of Mexico. Young manatees cannot survive in the wild on their own, and their only chance of surviving is to receive human care until they are old enough to be released back into the wild.
This orphaned manatee was rescued by Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife field staff, and brought to ZooTampa, home to one of the only care centers dedicated to manatees.
“Our state-of-the-art manatee critical care center is one of only two places that takes orphan calves in,” ZooTampa wrote on Facebook.
After the manatee arrived at the care facility, rescuers said that their adorable new patient held a special distinction: “She is the smallest rescued orphan calf we have treated.”
While taking in orphaned manatees is crucial for saving them, it’s hard work: these orphans require round-the-clock care.
“Orphans are an investment of time and resources, and it takes a village to provide for recovering manatees,” said Jon Peterson, the vice president of zoological and rescue operations at SeaWorld told the Tampa Bay Times, while caring for seven orphaned calves.
And these manatee rescuers have been stretching their resources lately. According to the Tampa Bay Times, a record-breaking amount of manatees have died this year, leaving behind more orphaned calves than ever.
But the staff at the Manatee Critical Care Center is committed to giving their new “tiny patient” all the care she needs. Manatees are considered adults and old enough to return to the wild when they are 600 pounds, so this manatee has a long way to go, but she is making good progress.
“She is doing well under the careful watch and care of our Animal Care team and Veterinary team,” ZooTampa wrote.
We’re so glad this tiny manatee is getting all the help she needs to survive after being orphaned. We can’t wait to see her grow up and return to the wild.