October 3, 2016 08:50AM
By Brooke Constance White
Sun staff writer
MYSTIC — Late last week, Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program took in a female Florida manatee, a first for the facility.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) monitored, rescued and transported the manatee from Cape Cod Bay to the aquarium with a permit and guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The manatee weighs more than 800 pounds, is in stable condition and is eating and acclimating well to the facility. Since arriving at the aquarium’s John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation Veterinary and Animal Health Center, she’s been living in a heated pool and has been continuously monitored by specialists. She is eating more than 50 pounds of lettuce and spinach each day.
The animal will remain at the aquarium for one to two weeks until she’s stable enough for transport, Mystic Aquarium Vice President of Biological Programs Allison D. Tuttle said.
“Upon that determination, she will be flown to a more permanent rehabilitation center in Florida to fully recuperate before ultimately being released back into coastal waters,” she said. “She is in good condition, but a little on the thin side. She initially received fluids and long-acting antibiotics in transport. However, she has been eating well so she has not required additional fluids.”
First seen in late August in Chatham, officials became concerned for the animal’s well-being as they knew water temperature would be dropping in September. The Florida manatee is an endangered marine mammal generally found off the southeastern coast of the U.S. coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. It soon became clear that the mammal would need to be relocated to a warmer climate. Once IFAW secured a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the rescue operation began.
“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to care for this animal,” said Janelle Schuh, stranding coordinator for Mystic Aquarium. “It is essential to us an organization to care for and protect the ocean planet, including its inhabitants. And, while we do this every day, bringing this animal’s story to light in our geographic area is even more poignant as a way to inspire even more efforts to save the species.”
IFAW Animal Rescue Program Director Katie Moore said said the care the manatee is currently receiving at the aquarium is critical and could be the difference between life and death.
“When we collaborate across fields, we can save even more animals,” she said.