Story by South Florida Museum
Myakklemore the manatee was released Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Manatee Viewing Center at Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. He came to the South Florida Museum in April 2014 following three months of treatment at Lowry Park Zoo’s critical care hospital. He was initially rescued from the Myakka River on Jan. 17, 2014, suffering from cold stress, which happens when manatees spend prolonged periods of time in water colder than 68 degrees. They can have frostbite-like symptoms, be susceptible to pneumonia and even die. In addition to cold stress, Myakklemore had scratches that his rescuers believe occurred as he tried to escape an area of oyster beds and mangroves. His release location was selected because it is the closest warm water site near to where he was rescued.
Myakklemore weighed 795 pounds when released. “Looking back to when he came to us, it’s just amazing to see how he’s grown and changed over time,” said Marilyn Margold, the Museum’s Director of Living Collections. Myakklemore weighed only 270 pounds when he arrived at the Museum. He was thought to be far too young to be without his mother when he was rescued and we do not know how they were separated. Manatees generally stay with their mothers until they are about two years old. They spend their first year nursing and their second year learning food sites, migration routes and warm water spots.
Myakklemore has been outfitted with a special tracking device and will be monitored by our partners at Sea to Shore Alliance so we can make sure he’s doing well in the wild. “That’s because he is a naïve animal, meaning he lacks experience finding his own way to warm water sites when water temperatures drop,” Marilyn explains. “He was released in an area where other manatees are congregating to help him find another manatee (or group of manatees) that already know all the winter hot spots and can help him find his way. Since manatees are spread over thousands of miles during the summer, we typically release cold stress rehab animals during the winter when the manatees are grouped together in warm water refuges.” Biologists from Sea to Shore will check on Myakklemore regularly to make sure he continues to grow and thrive. Beginning in the next few days, you can check on Myakklemore’s progress at ManateeRescue.org.
The Museum is a Stage 2 Rehabilitation Facility, where sick and injured manatees come after they have been treated and stabilized at one of the state’s three critical care hospitals. To date, 30 manatees have been cared for at the Museum while undergoing rehabilitation before returning to the wild. Icecube and Sarasolo remain with Snooty and we hope to be able to release them next year.
The Museum, Sea to Shore Alliance, and Lowry Park Zoo are members of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership), and Marilyn currently chairs the group. Originally created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the MRP is a self-governing, cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. The endangered Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.