Jacksonville zoo working to save 'critically' sick manatee

Beached manatee found on Vilano Beach in St. Johns County

By Jonathan Stacey - Meteorologist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville Zoo and Garden’s Animal Health staff are working around the clock to save the life of a manatee in the zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center.

The adult male manatee was brought to the zoo Sunday afternoon showing signs of severe cold stress, dehydration and a possible blunt-force injury.

Beachgoers reported a beached manatee at Vilano Beach in St. Johns County. Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) responded to the call and with the help of FWC’s right whale team and St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, loaded the manatee for transport to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

RELATED: SeaWorld, Jacksonville Zoo help return manatees | Jacksonville Zoo releases first manatee critical care patient | Jacksonville Zoo accepts first two manatees to critical care center

Zoo keepers and hospital staff are closely monitoring the manatee and giving treatments such as fluids, pain medications and antibiotics. The 10-foot-long adult male is moderately underweight, weighing 1,100 pounds and lethargic.

Additionally, the effects of cold stress can further develop over time, including skin sloughing and swelling. Manatee care staff was incredibly worried when he first arrived, as he did not appear to submerge and was not eating.

As of Wednesday morning, the manatee has begun eating but is in critical condition and his prognosis is uncertain.

“Upon arrival, the manatee was minimally responsive and had some concerning blood work results,” said zoo veterinarian Meredith Persky. "FWC’s quick response time, coupled with the immediate care provided by the Jacksonville Zoo and Garden’s Animal Health and manatee husbandry teams, were crucial to his survival during such a critical period. The manatee has started eating on his own and his blood work values are improving, so we are cautiously optimistic that he is heading in the right direction.”

The Manatee Critical Care Center currently has two females in residence: Percy, a young female, who was rescued in Jacksonville on Dec. 16, and MJ, who was transferred from SeaWorld on March 8. The juvenile females will stay at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for about another year to grow, but the hope is to release the male as soon as he is healthy. Zoo guests can view the manatees from the Wild Florida loop.

If you see an injured marine animal, you can help by calling the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.