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Manatees Returned to the Wild

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature Returns Two Manatees to the Wild

Animal care staff from The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature released two manatees on Thursday, February 18, 2021 — another successful release that will allow the two female manatees to return to the wild with the hope that someday they might help sustain and build the manatee population.

“It was great being able to get Felicia and Viva back to the wild,” said Virginia Edmonds, Director of Animal Care for The Bishop. “While they are a little too immature to reproduce at this time, we hope now that they’re back in the wild, they’ll continue to grow in size and experience to become successful mothers in the future.”

The manatees were released at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center on Apollo Beach with help from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, TECO staff and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute.

About the Manatees

  • Felicia was rescued from Ruskin Inlet April 22, 2019, with her mother after her mother suffered a watercraft injury. Felicia’s mother did not survive. When we returned Felicia to the wild on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, she weighed 530 pounds and was 7.7 feet long.
  • Viva was rescued on Nov. 11, 2019, from Pine Island Sound near Captiva Island in Lee County suffering from the effects of red tide. When we returned her to the wild on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, she weighed 510 pounds and was 7 feet long.

Before her release, Viva was outfitted with a satellite-linked transmitter that will allow researchers, biologists and organizations like The Bishop that were involved in an aspect of her rescue and rehabilitation to follow her return to the wild to monitor her health and movements. The public can watch her movements online at www.ManateeRescue.org.

The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat at The Bishop is a Stage 2 rehabilitation facility — one of the places where manatees can come after their critical health needs have been taken care of. Its main tasks are bringing rehabilitating manatees, usually those rescued as orphans, up to the right size and weight for release or, if the animals were sick or injured, allowing them to finish the healing process. Typically, animals remain at The Bishop anywhere from a few months to more than a year.

Now that the Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat is empty, Museum staff will use this opportunity to make some upgrades to the facility, including renovations that will allow future rehabilitation manatees a more naturally stimulating environment with variable depth and substrate with the goal of helping them transition even more successfully from rehabilitation back to the wild. The habitat will reopen later this spring.

The Bishop has been doing manatee rehabilitation since 1998 and was a founding partner of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, a cooperative group of nonprofit, private, state and federal organizations that participate in manatee population management or manatee rescue and rehabilitation.

In all, The Bishop has cared for more than 40 manatees, including Viva and Felicia.

You Can Help Wild Manatees

  • Boat Safe: Follow all posted speed limits and place a spotter on your boat to watch out for marine life.
  • Call: If you see a sick or injured manatee, you can help by calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.
  • Donate: You can help support manatee rehabilitation at The Bishop by making a donation to our annual fund online at www.BishopScience.org/donate