Manatees are an iconic species, in fact, recently the Disney animal care experts assisted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with the successful release of Plantaina!
A 680 pound manatee who was rescued as a baby near Fort Lauderdale in Florida. She was abandoned at less than a week old and weighted only 28 pounds making her the smallest manatee ever rescued. Thankfully, after rehab, she was able to go back into the wild in 2021 but that wouldn’t last long. The animal care team discovered she was losing weight again thanks to a satellite tracker that enables experts to continue to monitor the animal’s health, migration and socialization with other manatees so that required her to get rescued and into rehab again.
Plantaina was eventually taken to the Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot where she joined another 24 manatees who have been rehabilitated over the years. She is actually one of six manatees to complete rehabilitation at Walt Disney World over the last year, here they receive up to 150 heads of romaine lettuce each day depending on their individual needs, along with the occasional treat of apples, carrots and sweet potatoes to help them gain their natural wight before being released.
“Manatees are an iconic species in Florida, and their conservation impacts all of us” mentioned veterinarian Scott Terrell, DVM, and director of animal & science operations at Walt Disney World. “Caring for these amazing creatures benefits all of the animals that live in their coastal habitats and the human communities around them.”
Disney animal care experts provide ill and injured manatees with the stable, controlled environment they need to make a recovery and prepare for release. They receive exceptional veterinary care including preventive health exams, a calorie-rich diet and around the clock monitoring to help them return to the wild when they are fit.
Did you know that manatees can eat up to 300 pounds of seagrass a day? This is a major concern since many are beginning to starve from the lack of aquatic plants, further impacting this endangered species. In fact, manatee rescues and rehabilitations are becoming a lot more common in Florida due to the lack of food, with the main cause being pollution that threatens their main food source.
Disney Conservation Fund has provided grants to more than 15 non-profit organizations to better understand manatee populations, biology and habitat use, aid in the restoration of seagrass, and provide care for manatees in an effort to help make a difference in the conservation of this amazing species.
Credit: Disney World
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