Two juvenile Manatees that have been going through rehabilitation at the South Florida Museum have been released into warm waters where other Manatees gather.
Both of the Manatees were tagged and will be monitored to make sure they are surviving well in the wild.
Charlie, released Monday morning, Feb. 4, at Homosassa Springs, was rescued in November of 2010 as a young calf with his mother, who had been hit by a boat. His mother did not survive and Charlie was bottle fed and taught to eat whole food at the Miami Seaquarium’s manatee hospital.
Epac, who was rescued in January of 2011 from Matlacha Pass near Cape Coral suffering from cold stress, was released on Jan. 23 at Apollo Beach in the warm waters near the TECO power plant.
Both manatees are fitted with GPS tags so biologists can monitor their movements and track them closely. The public can follow the movements of Charlie and Epac online at www.wildtracks.org.
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The tag is housed in a float that is specially color coded for each manatee, so the biologists can immediately identify which manatee they are watching. The tracking gear is fitted with “weak links” that break apart to prevent any kind of entanglement.
Charlie came into the museum weighing just 400 pounds, said Marilyn Margold, the Museum’s Director of Living Collections.
“He grew to a healthy 700 pounds and 8 feet in length to be ready for release," Margold said. "Wild manatees are frequently seen at Homosassa Springs so releasing Charlie there offers good opportunity for him to meet new friends and explore the wild safely. This is especially important since he was so young when he came into rehab and has to learn how to live in the wild."
Two other manatees were released at the same time as Charlie: Wooten from the Miami Seaquarium and Laroc from the Lowry Park Zoo.
Epac, who had been at the South Florida Museum since March of 2012 and grew steadily during his stay to a weight of 820 lbs. and length of 8 feet, 4 inches long, was released far from where he was originally rescued.
“We like to release manatees back to the area where they came from, if possible, but Epac’s home habitat has been affected by red tide so the decision was made to release him at the southern-most warm water area free of red tide, which was Apollo Beach/ TECO,” Margold said. “He has been traveling along the Coast, close to shore, and he is being monitored closely.”
Sea to Shore Alliance is the independent organization responsible for tracking and monitoring rehabilitated manatees after their release back to the wild. The follow-up tracking helps to ensure the manatee’s successful reacclimation back into the wild while also collecting information for researchers so rehabilitation practices can be continuously refined.
As part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership, the South Florida Museum is a second stage rehabilitation facility that provides a temporary home for manatees until they are ready for release back to the wild. The South Florida Museum has cared for 24 manatees as part of the rehabilitation program since joining the network in 1998.