The story of SeaWorld Orlando's latest manatee rescue began a few weeks ago in the waterways off Merritt Island. A woman spotted a lone calf and called Florida Fish and Wildlife. FWC contacted SeaWorld animal care specialists who rushed to Brevard County to do what they do best.
Now one month old, and slightly obsessive about covering her eyes for some reason, the manatee has grown to 63 pounds and continues to have a healthy appetite.
"They're getting fed every three hours, even through the night," said SeaWorld Animal Care Specialist Brittany Baker as she was bottle feeding the manatee. "You can see the jaw is moving, there's that suckling sound, all good signs. Sometimes they get a little wiggly. Usually, it's because they need to breathe."
Caretakers at SeaWorld haven't named the female calf yet. She's still quite young, rescuers say. Though she's doing great, it's still too early to know if she will survive on her own, they tell us. It's a similar situation with another calf that was recently rescued as well.
Names would only make caretakers' jobs tougher they say, but they're hoping to name them soon once they make it over the hump so to speak.
"We're at the point right now where both calves are doing fantastic, and we're very hopeful," said Assistant Curator Randy Runnells. "But the transition to man-made formula from mother's milk is always a little tough."
The two calves appear to have a special bond, always nuzzling around each other. They are both female, and at times, they try to nurse off of one another. The animal care specialists say are they are still adjusting to life without mom.
It will take a little time, but eventually, they believe the calf rescued off Merritt Island will make it back into Florida's waterways.
"You're looking at an animal that weighs 2,000 pounds," Baker said. "It's eating 22 pounds of vegetation every day."
Baker said that the manatees play an important role in Florida's ecosystem, by eating a lot of the vegetation and growth in waterways, and that's one more reason to root for their survival.