Injured manatee is saved by joint effort
By 2nd Lt. Alicia Wallace, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 19, 2013
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The 45th Space Wing, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaWorld and Sea-to-Shore Alliance worked in a combined effort to release a rehabilitated manatee back into its natural habitat Aug. 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The female manatee was discovered in August 2012 on the Banana River near Cocoa Beach with deep propeller wounds on her back from being struck by a boat, according to Zach Johnson, research assistant for Sea-to-Shore Alliance.
Four different organizations played a part in the manatee's healing process and release.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station provided an ideal location to release the manatee, according to Johnson. There is plenty of grass and foliage for her to feed on, and the habitat can be protected because of boating restrictions. Many manatees already inhabit the waters there as well.
Fondly named "Laces," the nearly 10-foot-long, 955-pound mammal was transported to SeaWorld and has undergone over a year of recovery.
SeaWorld kept Laces at their facilities until she was cleared by a veterinarian to be returned back into her natural environment. The SeaWorld Orlando Animal Rescue Team also helped with carrying the nearly one ton animal into the waters at CCAFS.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were the ones who initially received the call about the injured manatee.
"We receive all calls about manatees that are found - dead or alive," said Christie Rush, FWC marine mammal biologist. "Our job is to check them out and then determine a response. We set-up everything from where to get them to a release spot."
The Sea-to-Shore Alliance has the responsibility of ensuring Laces is adapting to her new environment and staying in good health. In order to accomplish this, Sea-to-Shore Alliance attaches a tracking device to the manatee.
"The telemetry device we attached to her is a satellite tag that has GPS [Global Positioning System] and VHF [Very High Frequency] capabilities," said Ann Spellman, lead FWC marine biologist. "This means they can track by radio frequency. They can also track them on the computer through the ARGOS [Advanced Research and Global Observation] satellite system."
The tracking device that is placed on the manatee has several fail safes so that if the device gets caught, the manatee will be able to go free without being harmed. The device will be used to monitor the manatee's progress in its new environment and will be removed once Laces has adjusted, said Johnson.
There were other members of the wing that contributed to Laces' successful return to the Banana River.
Members from the 45th Security Forces Squadron provided a smooth coordination for access onto the restricted installation, and additional support was provided by the Environmental Support Contractor VZ Technologies to help carry the manatee into the Banana River near CCAFS.
"We got all these agencies together to make a wonderful thing happen. Having the similar jobs of protecting our natural resources is important to more than just us, and it's amazing to see Federal, state and local agencies come together like this," said Mabel O'Quinn, biologist, 45th Civil Engineer Squadron.
Although this joint effort showed our country's capacity to come together and save Laces' life, Spellman wanted to remind Florida residents of doing their part to preserve Florida's manatee population.
"The number one cause of death to manatees is boating incidents. Please be mindful and watch out for manatees in the river," said Spellman. "If you do see an incident or find an injured manatee, please contact the FWC."
The West Indian Manatee is an endangered species that is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill manatees, according to savethemanatee.org.
See Laces' activity at the following link (please note her activity is updated every 3 days) : www.wildtracks.org
You can contact the FWC at 888-404-3922 or visit their website at http://myfwc.com/.