BRADENTON — What’s it like helping carry manatees off a panel truck into the South Florida Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium?
“Like lifting a double-door refrigerator-freezer,” board member Jim Fraley said.
“A piano,” staffer Sally Senger said.
“A wet log,” staffer Scott Odell said.
Monday was a little bit of all of that for aquarium staff and volunteers. They offloaded two young female manatees into the aquarium from Lowry Park Zoo’s critical care facility, where they’d been treated for cold stress after Florida’s frigid winter.
Brandee was rescued from nearby Warner’s Bayou last February. She weighs 420 pounds and it took eight people to lift her with a special sling.
Desaon, saved in Satellite Beach the following month, weighs 650 pounds. Nine people carried her into the museum.
They’ll continue recovering at the aquarium’s second stage rehab facility, gaining weight before their eventual release.
They are the 20th and 21st manatees to keep Snooty, the museum’s 62-year-old icon, company since 1998.
“That both visitors are female, he’ll probably enjoy that for awhile,” said aquarium Director Marilyn Margold.
Siblings Caylee and Landon Grimes, who’d come to see Snooty with grandmother Cindy Grimes, enjoyed Brandee’s company for a few moments.
After the manatee was offloaded from the truck, veterinarian David Murphy had the critter set down in its sling and invited the children to pet Brandee on her back.
“It was tickly,” said Landon, 5.
Watching the children, the vet said, “This is all about giving local folks appreciation for an endangered species in their backyard and that’s who we want to endear right off the bat.”
One of the people who helped with Monday’s move was Rick Jacobson, the Sysco delivery man who dropped off 16 cases of Romaine lettuce and three cases of kale.
It will last two days and he’ll return Wednesday.
“They eat good here,” Jacobson said.
Brynne Ann Besio agreed.
The museum executive director looked on as the two new manatees checked out their temporary home while Snooty was fed at the southwest end of the aquarium.
“By the time they leave they’ll gain another 400 to 500 pounds,” she said.
“They like them at least 800 pounds before they release them.”
Which will mean more muscle to do the heavy lifting.
“At least 10 people,” she said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.