An orphaned manatee calf that was rescued by Lowry Park Zoo died Monday shortly after the zoo announced he appeared to be making “great health strides.”
Named “Emoji,” the manatee had come to the zoo with a number of health problems, including the rare disseminated intravascular coagulation, where the manatee both clots and bleeds simultaneously. Also, like many orphaned calfs mistakenly eat, his stomach had been filled with plastic bags.
In Emoji’s three-month update on Jan. 25, five days before he died, the zoo’s senior veterinarian Ray Ball said the manatee had gained 10 pounds and was swimming with others in their manatee habitat area. Like all of their rehabbed manatees, they had planned to release Emoji back into the wild when the time was right.
In November 2016, which happened to be Manatee Awareness Month, the zoo decided to name the manatee “Emoji” as part of a campaign to get Unicode to add a manatee emoji as a way to “continue our conversation about their need for protection,” Kristy Chase-Tozer, the zoo’s vice president of marketing and sales, said.
The zoo said it intends to continue this campaign. Perhaps, after Emoji’s death, it’s more important now more than ever.
“It’s a lesson that a simple human behavior like not throwing trash in waterways can prevent injuries and deaths,” Ball said in a press release.
The lesson can affect more than just the manatee. Other marine animals that are can get sick, injured or die from mistakenly include sea turtles, who may think plastic bags are jellyfish, and albatross, whose remains have been found filled with plastic that piles in the ocean.
The cause of Emoji’s death is still undetermined.