Una and Maguna Go Back Home!

Una shortly before her release on September 2nd. She was treated for monofilament entanglement. Unfortunately, her flipper was severely infected and part of it had to be amputated.
Una shortly before her release on September 2nd. She was treated for monofilament entanglement. Unfortunately, her flipper was severely infected and part of it had to be amputated.

By Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia and Manatee Research Associate

On September 2, 2020, Save the Manatee Club adoptee Una and her now-grown calf “Maguna” were released back into the wild by partners of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), including Save the Manatee Club, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaWorld Orlando, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, Florida State Park staff and volunteers, and Volusia County staff.

Una and her dependent calf were rescued on February 24 of this year at Blue Spring State Park because Una’s flippers were severely entangled in monofilament fishing line. The female calf was unharmed, but since she was still nursing on Una, the pair was rescued together and transported to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation.

This was Una’s second rescue for severe flipper entanglement. She was previously rescued as a small orphan in 2003 and then once again in 2016. Unfortunately, this time some of the fishing line had cut into her right flipper so deeply that it even affected the bone, and half of the flipper needed to be amputated. Luckily, manatees are very resilient animals and can survive with just one flipper. Una’s left flipper also shows severe scars from fishing line entanglement.

“Una is kind of a unique story,” says Maggie Mariolis from SeaWorld, who participated in Una’s first rescue. Maggie is also one of Una’s adoptive “parents.” “Most of the time, when people think of human hazards when it comes to manatees, they think of boat strikes. So to see a manatee like Una, who is 1,300 pounds and without major propeller scars, it’s very interesting to realize that she has been rescued multiple times because of monofilament line. It’s just something people usually don’t think about when they think of manatees being injured, but it’s very important not to ‘trash where we splash.’”

Both Una and Maguna were released near Blue Spring State Park, a warm-water refuge where Una is known to visit in the winter.

Entanglement on a manatee’s pectoral flippers, especially for females, can be a problem since they nurse their calves from mammary glands located behind the flippers. Calves depend on their mothers for up to two years before being weaned, so the inability to nurse can severely affect the health of the calf, too. Luckily, Una’s calf, named “Maguna” by SeaWorld staff, was doing very well and was about seven feet long and 630 pounds at the time of release, meaning that she will most likely start a life on her own soon.

“For me to come back out here and see Una released again, it’s a really heartwarming feeling,” says Maggie. “I’m very sad, because I will miss her, but I know I can come back to Blue Spring in the winter and odds are she will be here. It’s a good happy feeling. I want her to succeed, and I want her to be back out there.”

With a splash on release day, Una and Maguna swam free into the St. John’s River once again. Both manatees were released at the French Avenue boat ramp close to Blue Spring State Park, where they were initially rescued.

To protect manatees like Una and Maguna, please remember to always discard trash and fishing line in appropriate containers and participate in local cleanup events. If you see an injured manatee, please do not cut the entanglement off yourself, as it can cause more harm than good. Remember to report all sick and injured manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

Watch a short video of Una’s and Maguna’s release. (Video © Save the Manatee Club.)

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