The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens released a male manatee Wednesday in St. Augustine.
He spent over two months in rehabilitation and is the 23rd release from the zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center.
The manatee, named Gerard, was rescued on April 30 near Palm Coast. The zoo said he was found beached, appearing very thin. During his initial examination, veterinary staff administered treatments to improve his low blood glucose and hydration status.
“Gerard presented to our Manatee Critical Care Center in poor body condition, with some significant abnormalities in his blood work that required immediate treatment. Once those values stabilized, Gerard felt good enough to start eating on his own, which is always an exciting moment for us. We are thrilled to release Gerard back to his native habitat, in much better shape than he was found," said zoo veterinarian Meredith Persky in an email sent to WJCT News.
Gerard’s condition associated him with the Unusual Mortality Event (UME), designated under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. There is an ongoing investigation and response by the federal government to a record number of manatee deaths along the Atlantic coast of Florida. Preliminary information indicates that a reduction in food availability, seagrass, is the primary factor in this event. Blood samples from Gerard were sent to the University of Florida to assist in the investigation.
The zoo’s staff estimates Gerard is between two-and-a-half and three-years-old. When rescued, he weighed 491 pounds and was released Wednesday at 605 pounds. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) assisted the Zoo with the release.
To report an injured marine mammal, call the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC) or dial *FWC on a cellular device.