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Aquarium, Snooty bid adieu to pair of young manatees

BRADENTON — One manatee was being returned to the zoo and fussed.

The other was going back to the wild and took it in stride.

“Like it’s supposed to be,” said veterinarian David Murphy.

Teco II and Bolee, both 2-year-old male sea cows, were released Wednesday from Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium.

They’d been there since January, recuperating and gaining weight after being treated at the Lowry Park Zoo’s medical facility in Tampa for cold stress and broken ribs, respectively.

“One of the easiest transport processes we’ve had,” said Caitlin O’Brien, a manatee care specialist. “Some are more difficult than others.”

While Teco II rejoins Lowry’s manatees, Bolee, who was shipped to Fort Myers by Florida Wildlife Commission personnel, returned to Jug Creek at Pine Island amid concerns about the oil spill crisis.

Aquarium Director Marilyn Margold said wildlife officials factored that into the manatee’s release.

“You can’t keep something healthy in captivity on a maybe,” she said. “Nothing’s been spotted on our end. Until we cross that bridge, we don’t know what to expect. U.S. Fish and Wildlife makes that decision.”

Wednesday’s exercise took under an hour.

Teco II, so named after being rescued from TECO’s power plant discharge canals in Apollo Beach, went first.

The 700-plus pound critter was a little persnickety before handlers eased him into a 10-foot sling in the holding pool, then mechanically hoisted and loaded him onto a panel truck.

“They can get a little panicky,” said Jim Fraley, a board member and volunteer. “He’s like, ‘Hey, man. I don’t want to go back to the zoo with all those other manatees. I like it here.’ ’’

So did Bolee, especially after what this 690-pounder had been through.

“This guy was hit by a boat,” Murphy said. “He got some initial treatment (at Lowry), came here for final leg of rehab and got some size on him, exactly what this program’s all about.”

They were the 17th and 18th manatees to be cared for at the aquarium, a second-stage facility for Lowry’s critical care unit since 1998.

There is a 19th, 3-year-old Cayman, an orphan from the Cayman Islands.

He’s going to Disney World on Monday.

“From one vacation spot to another,” Murphy said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206.

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