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Jacksonville Zoo Celebrates Release Of Manatee From Critical Care Center

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
BriarRose the manatee was released in Cocoa Wednesday.

BriarRose the manatee was released back into Florida waters Wednesday in Cocoa.

She had been recovering at the Jacksonville Zoo and Garden’s Manatee Critical Care Center since March.

“It’s always a good day when we can return a manatee back to the wild,” said Craig Miller, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Curator of Mammals and leader of the Marine Mammal Response Team, in an email to WJCT News.

BriarRose was released with help from the zoo, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute.

The 873-pound manatee was rescued for a second time after a cold front caused all of the animals except BriarRose to travel to warmer water. The decision was made to take her in before she became cold-stressed, especially since she had previously beached herself in New Smyrna Beach in early 2018.

Credit Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
BriarRose's handlers prepare to release her Wednesday.

During her first rescue BriarRose was underweight and sent to SeaWorld, and then to the Jacksonville Zoo.

“The plan since BriarRose’s re-rescue was to make sure she was healthy and then wait until the following late fall or early winter, after the first few significant cold fronts, to release her directly into the warm water at the power plant discharge. This would allow her to feel the difference between the warm water outflow and the colder, ambient water in the surrounding waterway,” said Miller.

BriarRose is outfitted with a satellite tag so her progress can be monitored.

She is the 13th manatee to be released from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens since the opening of the Critical Care Center in 2017.

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

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.