Video: Recuperating Jax Zoo Manatee To Be Released While Another Has 'Tough Fight Ahead'

May 11, 2018

One of two recently rescued manatees recuperating at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Manatee Critical Care Center is ready to be released.

Vilanzo has been in the zoo’s care since his rescue seven weeks ago in Vilano Beach after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) responded to a report of a beached manatee.

The adult male was showing signs of cold stress, exhaustion and dehydration.

One of Vilanzo’s caregivers described him as being, “a completely different animal as when he first arrived. He presented as a lethargic manatee and is going to be leaving the Critical Care center as a healthy and very active animal,” according to a news release from the zoo.

Vilanzo has been given a clean bill of health and is scheduled to be released in the intracoastal on Tuesday.

Less than a week after Vilanzo was rescued and brought to the zoo, another manatee was found stranded in the receding waters of Miller Creek in Jacksonville’s St. Nicholas neighborhood.

The second manatee was recused by from Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, FWC, Sea to Shore Alliance and zoo staff.

That manatee – also a male - appears to be older, according to the zoo, although an exact age hasn’t been determined. He suffered damage to his tail in the past.

Nicknamed Miller, the second manatee hasn’t shown the improvement that zoo staff hoped to see. The zoo says Miller has a "tough fight ahead of him."

"We all knew when we invested in the Critical Care Center that there would be highs and lows and that some animals would come to us with greater challenges than others. All we can do is give each manatee the best care possible and hope that’s enough to give them a fighting chance to get back to the wild,” said Tony Vecchio, Executive Director of the zoo in an email to WJCT News.

Zoo veterinarians are consulting with specialists and are continuing aggressive treatment and supportive care for Miller.

Conversely, caregivers are thrilled to be preparing for Vilanzo’s release. “It’s a great day when we can send a healthy animal back to the wild,” said Vecchio.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.