Jacksonville Zoo Cares For Manatee Injured In Probable Boat Strike In Daytona

Aug 28, 2020

The Marine Mammal Response Team at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is working to nurse a manatee back to health that was rescued in Daytona Beach after likely being hit by a boat.

The manatee was abnormally floating to one side, due to a partially collapsed lung.
Credit Via Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Her injuries include a partial collapsed lung, fractured ribs and a wound across her back.

“The injury to the manatee’s lung has caused air to be trapped in her body cavity, keeping her buoyant on her left side. Her condition is guarded, but she has a good appetite, which is normally a positive sign," said Craig Miller, who is the zoo’s curator of mammals and head of the Marine Mammal Response Team.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team rescued the manatee Saturday after concerned citizens called in reports.

"Our vet team is working to alleviate the trapped air and our husbandry staff is monitoring her closely and keeping sunscreen on her skin that is raised out of the water,” said Miller.

The recuperation is touch-and-go for now with Miller saying her lung could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to heal.

At this point her injured lung still has a significant air leak.

Assuming the recuperation goes well, the manatee will be released back in Daytona Beach. If her recovery goes into winter she will most likely be released into the warm waters at Cape Canaveral's power plant.

Miller said it's likely that is where she would naturally spend the winter months.

Credit Bill Greer / Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

She weighed in at 645 pounds and measured 8 feet, 4 inches long. The zoo estimates she is a juvenile, probably between 3 and 4 years old.

The Jacksonville Zoo's manatee rescue and rehabilitation program is the zoo’s largest regional conservation initiative. It has cared for 23 manatees since opening in 2017.

Marion was the last manatee released by the Zoo, near Salt Springs, Fla., on Aug. 4.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.