A Successful Rescue for Una

This photo, taken on November 27, 2019, shows the fishing line entanglement clearly visible on Una’s flipper.
This photo, taken on November 27, 2019, shows the fishing line entanglement clearly visible on Una’s flipper.

By Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia and Manatee Research Associate, and Nancy Sadusky, Director of Online Communications

On February 24, 2020, Una, one of the manatees in Save the Manatee Club’s adoption program, and her female calf were rescued at Blue Spring State Park so Una could be taken in for treatment. She had severe fishing line entanglement on both her flippers. Her rescue was the result of three months of careful monitoring and fortunate timing.

This is not the first time Una has required assistance. She was initially rescued as an orphaned calf near Jacksonville, Florida, in December 2003. She was rescued again in 2016 and released back into the wild in 2017 after undergoing treatment for severe fishing line entanglement on both flippers.

Una’s entanglement included several types of fishing line, twigs, lead sinkers, and hooks.

Her latest entanglement was discovered when Una came in for the season at Blue Spring State Park, located near Orange City, Florida, on November 16, 2019. Researchers were thrilled to learn that she had a new calf with her. Unfortunately, they also found that Una had entanglement again on both of her flippers.

An attempt to remove the severe entanglement from her left flipper in December was successful, and that was good news. The entanglement included several types of fishing line, twigs, lead sinkers, and hooks. Unfortunately, Una’s left flipper seemed infected and started to deteriorate to the point where it was not certain her calf could still nurse properly. (Calves nurse on mammary glands located behind the mother’s flippers.) Shortly afterwards, our researchers noticed that Una was not using her left flipper anymore and was dragging it when “walking” along the water bottom, as West Indian and African manatees sometimes do.

This photo, taken on January 27, 2020, shows how Una’s flipper is swollen and possibly infected.

In January, Una and her calf visited Blue Spring, and a decision was made to capture them so Una could get help. Unfortunately, the mom and calf duo left the spring before the rescue crews could arrive. But on February 24th, a team consisting of Save the Manatee Club, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, Volusia County, Blue Spring State Park staff and volunteers, and SeaWorld Orlando was successful in securing Una and her calf, and they were transported to SeaWorld Orlando for treatment. (All activities conducted under permit #MA770191.)

While at SeaWorld, Una will receive the expert care she needs. At last report, she and the calf are well and are currently sharing a pool at SeaWorld with a manatee named Lesley, who was also rescued from Blue Spring State Park with severe watercraft injuries in March of 2018. Maggie Mariolis, a SeaWorld Manatee Care staff member, is currently caring for Una. Coincidentally, Maggie was also the first person to adopt Una when she became part of Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee program in 2018. “Una is my favorite manatee of all time,” says Maggie. “She was my first rescue ever, way back in 2003. She is even tattooed on my arm. It is incredibly sad to see that fishing line has been causing her so much trouble, and it also shows how resilient manatees are—still caring for their young even when suffering from such severe injuries.”

As soon as Una is well, the mom and calf pair will be returned to Blue Spring to be released back into the wild. A big “thank you” to everyone who helped!

Proceeds from adoptions of Una go to the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative of agencies, organizations, and oceanaria with a mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and release manatees (Save the Manatee Club is a charter member and MRP partner).

For more information about adopting Una, go to Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee® page or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

The rescue team successfully captures Una and her calf, so Una can be taken in for treatment. The rescue boat is open in the back to facilitate bringing the manatees on board.

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