Ocean Community News

Manatee Associated with ‘Unusual Mortality Event’ Rehabbed at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens released a male manatee Wednesday in St. Augustine, Florida. He spent over two months in rehabilitation and is the 23rd release from the Manatee Critical Care Center.

The manatee, named Gerard, was rescued on April 30 near Palm Coast, Florida. 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 Dr. Meredith Persky, veterinarian at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

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.

Staff estimates Gerard is around 2.5-3 years old. Upon rescue, 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. CMARI attached a satellite tag to Gerard to monitor his location and condition.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Manatee Critical Care Center is an acute care, rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical treatment to rescued manatees. The manatee rescue and rehabilitation program is the Zoo’s largest regional conservation initiative, caring for 32 manatees since the Center opened in 2017.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, along with other zoos, aquariums, non-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, comprise the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership and work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at manateerescue.org. Florida manatees are a federally-protected threatened species, at significant risk from both natural and human threats. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, disease, boat strikes, crushing by floodgates and locks, line entanglement, and ingestion of pollution and debris are just some of the hazards facing one of Florida’s most iconic animals.

To report an injured marine mammal, call the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC) or dial *FWC on a cellular device.

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