Rescued as an orphan, Rocket is a manatee success story
Rocket was first identified as a small calf at Blue Spring State Park in 2006. The only adults present at the time he was observed at the park were male, and the mother was nowhere in sight. The little calf was declared an orphan and christened “Tiny” by park staff, who continued to keep an eye on him. Female manatees will sometimes adopt orphaned calves, and that was the hope for this little guy. That season, Tiny nursed from various mothers, but he would not stay with or follow one female. Soon, a decision was made: Tiny was not thriving, and he had to be rescued. He was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for treatment, where he was renamed “Rocket” because he had been known to “rocket” around the tank during his rehabilitation. When he was released at Blue Spring two years later, he was a healthy 745 pounds and immediately zoomed around the run, living up to his name.
That is, until Annie was released with him. Annie was an East Coast orphan who had also been brought to SeaWorld, and the two manatees stayed in the same tank. When they were released two years later, they stayed together for a year and a half. This behavior is unusual outside of mother-and-calf pairs. But wherever Annie went, Rocket was sure to follow. The park staff called them “the kids” or “the twins,” and Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist for the Club, liked to say that “Annie loves people, and Rocket loves Annie.” Both manatees have returned to winter at Blue Spring, although by now, they have gone their separate ways. After staying with Annie in the wild for a year and a half, Rocket went out on his own. He is still small for an adult male and will probably always be that way. As Wayne puts it, “He is just a good little manatee.”
During manatee season, check our Blue Spring webcams for updates on the latest news on Rocket and other Blue Spring manatees.