Rescue and Rehabilitation

Each year, many manatees are killed or injured by watercraft collisions. They can also accidentally ingest fish hooks, litter, or become entangled in crab traps or monofilament line. But people may be able to help rescue a manatee by calling wildlife officials. They will investigate and, if need be, coordinate the rescue of the manatee.

Report sick, injured, orphaned, and dead manatees immediately to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922, or to your local wildlife officials if you are outside of Florida. Get more info on reporting injured manatees.

The Rescue Network

Two manatees, named Ace and Venice, side-by-side on a stretcher featuring Save the Manatee Club's logo as they await release back into their natural environment near Fort Myers, Florida.

Manatees Ace and Venice await release back into their natural environment near Fort Myers, Florida. Ace had been been rescued for cold stress and was rehabilitated at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, and Venice was rehabilitated at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Photo courtesy Cora Berchem, SMC.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists work with a network of agencies and organizations to rescue manatees and transport them to rehabilitation facilities. There are a few facilities in Florida that are authorized under the joint supervision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the FWC to rescue, transport, and/or treat manatees. In addition, a number of agencies and organizations exist outside of Florida to help manatees, including Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, among others.

Once a manatee is ready to be released, they are equipped with tracking gear, and the manatee's health and re-adaptation to the wild are monitored by the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative effort of nonprofit, private, state, and federal entities. (Save the Manatee Club is a founding member and the fiduciary sponsor for the MRP.)

Save the Manatee Club’s Work

A team works together to lift and move a blue stretcher containing a manatee named Leesburg, who is ready to be released after being rehabilitated for cold stress.

Leesburg the manatee is released at Welaka, Florida, in May 2016 after undergoing rehabilitation for severe cold stress at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Photo courtesy Heather Murphy.

Supporting manatee rescue and rehabilitation has been a fundamental aspect of Save the Manatee Club's (SMC) work for decades. SMC has provided funding and staff assistance for multiple manatee rescues and releases, as well as funds for the care and rehabilitation of injured and cold-stressed manatees at a number of facilities.

SMC provided funds to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (HSWSP) in order to feed and care for manatees rescued due to red tide exposure. In previous years, SMC has funded heat, veterinary care, and food for manatees recovering from cold stress at HSWSP. In addition, SMC has provided necessary equipment, such as a manatee stretcher and a centrifuge, to HSWSP.

Rescue and rehabilitation efforts have also included assisting ZooTampa at Lowry Park with their manatee rehabilitation efforts by raising funds for a variety of essential equipment, including a new crane scale, shade cloths for medical pools, a new stretcher, and critical care pool doors. SMC has also provided funds for a new net for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in New Jersey in order to assist with manatee rescue in the northeast region, supported a tracking program in the Florida Keys focused on rehabilitated manatees with a history of monofilament entanglements, and started a manatee adoption program with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network in order to provide additional funds for the manatee stranding program.

SMC has actively supported manatee rehabilitation as a member of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). Executive Director Patrick Rose and Save the Manatee Club staff have led various subcommittees of the MRP and co-chaired the Partnership.

Through the years, SMC has consistently contributed to and led advocacy efforts to ensure the essential preservation of much of the state’s funding for the Florida Manatee Critical Care Program, which financially supports the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and monitoring of cold-stressed and injured manatees. These funds have treated hundreds of manatees that may have suffered and died without proper treatment.

SMC supports the rescue, rehabilitation, research, and relocation of manatees around the world, located in areas such as Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica, West Africa, Senegal, Brazil, and the United States. Collaboration with Wildtracks rehabilitation facility in Belize has involved contributing funds for food, medicine, and infrastructure updates to the facility, including a new lift system and a new pump for a water heating system. SMC has also provided over 600 pounds of much-needed formula to feed orphaned manatees in Belize, as well as funds for upgrades to the food prep kitchen at Wildtracks to provide food for manatees in rehabilitation. SMC has also supported orphaned manatees, such as Twiggy in Belize and Victor in West Africa, with food and medicine.