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Manatee Habitat Reopening June 16

Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat to Reopen to the Public June 16 at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature

Members of The Bishop’s animal care team clean the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat as the Museum prepares to receive two new manatees for care.

The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature will reopen to the public on Wednesday, June 16, following extensive renovations to the facility.

The renovations, which began in March, are designed to provide rehabilitating manatees a more naturally stimulating environment with variable depth and substrate that will help them transition even more successfully from rehabilitation back to the wild. The renovations, which also included painting, new carpeting and lighting, along with a new mural for the exhibition, were made possible through support from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Daniel S. Blalock, Jr. Charitable Foundation and the Ralph S. French Charitable Foundation Trust.

They were more than a year in planning and included input from veterinarians and animal care experts at The Bishop, as well other partner facilities and organizations.

The newly renovated Habitat resembles a cypress spring and provides the animals with an environment that more closely mimics what they will encounter in the wild, said Virginia Edmonds, Director of Animal Care at The Bishop. “We have some new things that we hope the manatees will like. There’s a lot more texture in the pool — manatees are very tactile and they like to scratch, and the new rougher surfaces will give them more of an opportunity to use their sense of touch.”

In addition to differing textures, other features of the pool include an artificial tree that the manatees will be able to navigate around, as well as different levels on which to rest. “These things are all stimulating for the manatees and they’ll be able to swim around and check them out— similar to the natural features they’ll encounter when they return to the wild,” Edmonds said.

There will be two new manatees in the newly renovated Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat when it reopens to the public on June 16:

  • Janus is a subadult female manatee that was rescued in January from Philippi Creek in Sarasota. Janus was unable to exit the canal and was suffering from cold stress when she was rescued. She’s 6 feet long and weighed 295 pounds when she was rescued; today she weighs about 365 pounds.
  • Iclyn is another subadult female manatee. She was rescued in January from Whitaker Bayou in Sarasota suffering from cold stress. Iclyn was 6.5 feet long and weighed 360 pounds at rescue; today she’s 7 feet long and weighs in at about 475 pounds.

The Bishop has been rehabilitating manatees since 1998 and was a founding member of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) in 2001. The MRP is a cooperative of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities that rescue, rehabilitate and return manatees to the wild.

The Bishop’s Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat is a Stage 2 rehabilitation facility — the place where manatees go after their initial critical care needs have been met in manatee hospitals. This second-stage facility offers manatees the opportunity to gain exposure to natural foods and feeding strategies, and gain weight for their return to the wild. Second stage facilities play a vital role in maintaining space for critically ill manatee patients in the hospitals.

The Bishop has cared for 42 rehabilitating manatees.

Florida manatees are at risk from both natural and human causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide and cold stress are natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-related threats include boat strikes, crushing by floodgates or locks, entanglement in monofilament and crab trap line, or ingestion of fishing gear and plastic bags.

If you see an injured manatee, you can help by calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.