Disney helps FWC achieve manatee rehabilitation and release

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Animal care experts from Walt Disney World Resort recently helped the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with the successful release of a 680-pound manatee named Plantaina at Blue Spring State Park, about 50 miles northeast of Walt Disney World Resort.

Plantaina is a young female manatee who was rescued as a baby near Fort Lauderdale, Florida when she was found abandoned less than a week old. She weighed only 28 pounds at the time, making her the smallest manatee ever rescued. After an initial successful rehab, Plantaina was released back into the wild (February 2021). However, it was soon discovered that she was losing weight, which required another rescue and rehabilitation before coming to The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT, where 24 other manatees have been rehabilitated over the years.

“Manatees are an iconic species in Florida, and their conservation affects us all,” said veterinarian Scott Terrell, DVM, and director of animal and science operations at Walt Disney World Resort. “Caring for these amazing creatures benefits all the animals that live in their coastal habitats and the human communities around them.

Through collaboration with other rehabilitation facilities over the years – as part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) – Disney’s animal care experts provide sick and injured manatees with the stable, controlled environment they need. they need to recover and prepare for release. The manatees receive exceptional veterinary care, including preventative health checks, a high-calorie diet, and 24-hour monitoring to help them return to the wild when healthy. Once released, some manatees like Plaintaina are assigned a satellite tracker that allows experts to continue monitoring the animal’s health, migration and socialization with other manatees. These satellite trackers are designed to detach if they become entangled in order to prioritize the health of the manatee.

Unfortunately, manatee rescues and rehabilitations are becoming more and more common in Florida. A severe lack of food is of concern as runoff and pollution continue to threaten their primary food source. Each of these large herbivores can eat up to 300 pounds of seagrass per day, and many are beginning to starve due to lack of aquatic plants, further impacting this endangered species.

Plantaina is one of six manatees to complete rehabilitation at Walt Disney World Resort in the past year. Rehabilitating manatees at Disney can be given up to 150 heads of romaine lettuce each day depending on their individual needs, along with occasional treats of apples, carrots and sweet potatoes, to help them return to their natural weight before can be released. .

In addition to releases, the Disney Conservation Fund has awarded grants to more than 15 nonprofit organizations to better understand manatee populations, biology and habitat use, help with seagrass restoration, and provide manatee care.

These manatee releases, along with funding from the Disney Conservation Fund and the knowledge and expertise of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, are helping to make a difference in the conservation of this amazing species.

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