The Jacksonville City Council will vote Tuesday whether the city should oversee Northeast Florida’s first manatee critical care center, slated to open this year.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will house the center for rehabilitating and releasing sick or injured manatees back into their habitat.
Zoo spokesman Lucas Meers says manatees currently must be sent to SeaWorld in Orlando, and a closer facility will make a big difference for their chance of recovery.
“We realized that there is a need for a manatee critical care center in North Florida. We would be the fourth one in the state of Florida to help basically cut transport time, transport cost and reduce a lot of the stress on an already stressed animal," he says.
The facility has received more than $1 million in private donations a $500,000 grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Services. One stipulation of the grant is that the center be used as a cultural facility for at least 10 years.
The zoo broke ground on the center last July. It will be located between the Education Campus and gorilla exhibits. The city must oversee the center because it owns the zoo property.