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BE FREE! 900lb manatee released back into wild after four-month rehabilitation

FWC returned the manatee to the water near Cayo Costa
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 10, 2024

PINE ISLAND, Fla. — After four months of rehabilitation, a manatee that had been injured by a boat is heading back into the ocean.

The Florida manatee, which measures seven feet long and weighs over 900 pounds, was found hurt near Pelican Bay in March. It underwent treatment at Sea World in Orlando and has now been cleared for release.

"It feels good, it feels good," said Captain Jeff Nelson who watched as the manatee returned to the wild off the coast of Cayo Costa. "I see them out there every day, and being part of this is amazing. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Nelson spotted the injured manatee during a regular charter.

"It was floating oddly near the mangroves," he said.

Nelson alerted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which determined the manatee had been hit by a boat. FWC transported it to SeaWorld Orlando for care.

"It's a big manatee. For a rescue, we typically have about 10 people on a big boat and many more at Sea World to help once it's at the facility," said Molly Luegge with FWC.

Following months of therapy, SeaWorld Orlando announced the manatee is now healthy and ready to return to its natural habitat.

The group says it is proud of its work and has aided over 41,000 sick, injured, and orphaned animals.

"Our team’s dedication and expertise ensure that each animal receives the highest standard of care with the goal of returning them to the wild," SeaWorld Orlando said in a statement.