Even pushing 70, Snooty the manatee makes room for the youngsters.
Three young manatees rescued on the East Coast of Florida were transported by SeaWorld Orlando trucks Wednesday morning, hoisted into slings and placed into 68-year-old Snooty’s pool at the South Florida Museum.
Randall, Baca and Gale will continue to recover and grow at the museum, which acts as a second-stage care facility, while first-stage facilities like SeaWorld can continue to rescue manatees in worse conditions.
Each rehabilitating manatee represents the struggles that these sensitive marine mammals face out in the wild, but all were able to have a second chance at life after being rescued.
Gale was rescued with her mother Tsunami by SeaWorld on Dec. 29 from Crane Creek near Melbourne. Tsunami was injured and had cold stress syndrome.
“Whenever they find the mother and calf together, they try to rescue both animals so the calf can stay with the mother as long as possible,” said Marilyn Margold, the museum’s director of living collections.
But Tsunami didn’t survive and Gale is too young to be released just yet.
Baca, the smallest of them all at 389 pounds and 6 feet, 6 inches, was rescued from a bout of cold stress syndrome in the Banana River on Jan. 9. When water temperatures are too cold for manatees, their organs start to shut down and their skin becomes weak.
And last but not least, Randall was found stuck in a culvert near Palatka on Dec. 13.
“What they’re doing is looking for warm water sites, and if the water level is down enough in a drainage ditch and they’re able to swim in, the problem is manatees don’t have the body or the capacity to reverse once they’re inside,” Margold said.
Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows Snooty’s pool to have three adult manatees, Margold said the two sub-adults and juvenile are small enough to take in.
Snooty didn’t seem to mind the newcomers, as he was focused on getting treats of lettuce and carrots. And because Snooty — who is the world’s oldest recorded manatee — was born in captivity and will never be released into the wild, caretakers will be sure to sneak him snacks so the rehabilitating manatees won’t rely on humans for food. They will be fed through environmental enrichment devices, which teach the manatees to seek out food like they would in the wild.
“We don’t want manatees coming up to people in the wild, as that can create dangerous situations for the manatees,” said Jessica Schubick, communications director for the museum.
Randall is expected to be released in late summer, while Baca and Gale will stick around until winter.