[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Injured Manatee going home


Injured Manatee going home

A Manatee, that was injured in the cold nearly two years ago, is now going home.

By Summer Smith, Reporter
Monday, January 16, 2012

A manatee that was injured in the cold nearly two years ago is now going home.

On Tuesday morning, the manatee, named Brandee, will be released back into the wild.

The nearly three-year-old manatee has been living at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. The museum serves as a rehabilitation facility for injured manatees until they are ready for release into the wild.

Brandee was rescued in February 2010 from Warner West Bayou off Palma Sola Bay in Bradenton. She was suffering from cold stress due to prolonged exposure to the cold temperatures. The manatee was originally bought to Lowery Park Zoo, a critical care facility for manatees.

Once she was stabilized, Brandee was transferred to the South Florida Museum for continued care and monitoring on Aug. 9, 2010.

She weighed 410 pounds and measured 6 feet 5 inches upon arrival at the museum.

During her time at the museum, her health has greatly improved.

"Now she's at the point where she's a healthy 870 pounds," said Marilyn Margold, the Director of Living Collections, at the museum. "She's ready to go back out into wild."

The Museum's animal care team performed a health assessment on January 12 to prepare for the release. Brandee's not only doubled her weight, but she is now 8 feet 3 inches in length.

In her specific case, white scarring which is a product of 'frostbite' on manatees is visually obvious on her tail.

Brandee's movement is not affected although the scar from the cold weather of early 2010 is permanent.

Brandee has been living in her tank with another rescue, Charlie, and Snooty, the museum's long-term resident manatee.

Visitors said while they're sad to see her go, they know it's what's best for her. "I wish Brandee the best and I think she needs to go back home," said Linda Pilcher, who is visiting from Indiana.

Despite Brandee being brought here because of the cold weather, she's being released during the cold weather. There is a reason for it; her caretakers said it will increase her chance of survival.

"They've actually looked at releasing them at end of February or beginning of March, when water is starting to change," said Margold. "But a lot of times the animal doesn't go where we'd like them to go. They stay in warm water spot and we want them to migrate. And, that's important for reproduction."

It's a bittersweet goodbye for everyone caring for Brandee, but it's not a final farewell.

Since Brandee was so young when she was rescued, she is considered a 'naive' animal. It's a term used to identify an animal that has not previously experienced the annual cycle of migration and weather changes in the wild successfully.

To make sure she is okay, researchers are attaching a tracking device to her tail. She will be tracked and monitored by researchers for a year following release and was fitted with a 'mock' tag so she can become accustomed to it.

The tracking device consists of a belt fitted around the base of her tail, a tether and a satellite-linked transmitter in a float.

The equipment is designed to break free if it becomes entangled or something inhibits its movement.

Other considerations have been made over the past few months to prepare Brandee for release, including the introduction of wild aquatic plants into her diet and adjustments to the water temperature.

Brandee will be released Tuesday from the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve, 6760 Surfside Blvd. in Apollo Beach, at 9:00 am.

She will be released with 'Homey,' a manatee being released from Lowry Park Zoo's manatee hospital.

Bay News 9

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