After about 18 months of rehabilitation, a manatee returned to open water Thursday afternoon, the Museum of South Florida announced.
Sarasolo was released at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach.
Sarasolo was found as an orphaned calf suffering from cold stress in Phillippi Creek in Sarasota when he was rescued. He weighed just 366 pounds.
When Sarasolo was released, he weighed 743 pounds and measured just under 8 feet long, according to the Museum of South Florida.
Officials hope he will find a mentor manatee or a group of other manatees that will help him find food and the “winter hot spots.”
During his rehab, Sarasola shared space at the museum with the iconic Snooty, a permanent resident there.
“Sarasolo has been very active during his time with us, so we’re hopeful he’ll do well in the wild,” said Marilyn Margold, director of the museum’s living collections. “Releases are always a bittersweet time for us because we come to care about each individual so much while they are with us and we’ve been working toward this day for more than a year and a half. We’re excited to see him return to being a wild manatee.”