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The South Florida Museum Returns Rehab Manatee Baca to the Wild

Release provides another reason to celebrate Manatee Appreciation Day at the Museum on March 27

 The South Florida Museum returned a manatee to the wild Thursday, March 7, in Brevard County, near where the young male was found suffering from cold stress in 2017.

Nicknamed Baca, the manatee spent his initial rehabilitation in a critical care facility and then was moved to the Museum’s Stage 2 Rehabilitation Habitat to grow to the right size and weight for release. As a young male manatee weighing about 300 pounds when he was rescued, Baca needed to do a lot of growing up before he was ready to leave. A veterinary check-up in December helped us to determine that Baca was ready to return home — we just had to wait for the right weather for him to leave. He was 8 feet long and 675 pounds at release.

The Museum’s Stage 2 Rehabilitation Habitat is the place where manatees come after their critical health needs have been taken care of. Its main tasks are bringing rehabilitating manatees, rescued as orphans, up to the right size and weight for release and, if injured, allowing them to finish the healing process. Typically, animals remain in the Museum’s care anywhere from a few months to more than a year, as in Baca’s case.

“Today is a great day!” said Museum Aquarium Director Virginia Edmonds after the release near the Cape Canaveral Next Generation Clean Energy Center. “Baca has grown into an independent, wild manatee and his time here has helped us provide him with some of the information he needs to make his return to the wild as successful as possible.”

While in rehabilitation at the Museum, Baca’s caregivers were able to feed him freshwater and saltwater grasses that he would find in the wild, give him the opportunity to develop the natural behavior of feeding at the bottom, and introduce him to changing water temperatures so his body could adapt to the water temperatures he will experience after release

“This is all part of the rehabilitation process and we hope it helped to set him up for success,” Edmonds said.

Baca’s return to the wild was also facilitated by other members of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership — a cooperative group of nonprofit, private, state and federal organizations that participate in manatee population management or manatee rescue and rehabilitation. The South Florida Museum has been doing manatee rehabilitation since 1998 and was a founding partner of the MRP.

Members that supported Baca’s release included the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which helped with transport, SeaWorld — where Baca also spent his time in critical care — the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Jacksonville Zoo and the Clearwater Marine Research Institute (CMR) — formerly known as the Sea to Shore Alliance.

CMR will also be tracking this manatee’s return to the wild, thanks to Baca’s special satellite-linked tag. The tag allows animal biologists to track Baca’s movements to ensure he is migrating appropriately and doing well in the wild. News and updates about Baca will be posted online at manateerescue.org.

Love Manatees? Join Us for Manatee Appreciation Day!

Florida celebrates Manatee Appreciation Day on March 27 and the South Florida Museum is planning some special activities to celebrate these gentle, lovable creatures.
  • During regular Museum hours on Wednesday, March 27, our manatee mascot will make a guest appearance and take pictures with our guests. We’ll also have some special activities for kids in the courtyard.
  • Then, from 830 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 30 (before the Museum opens), we’re planning a Green Bridge/Riverwalk trash cleanup. Back at the Museum, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 pm, we’ll host kids activities in the courtyard: face-painting, paper-bag puppet making, staged “manatee releases” (no real manatees will be involved, of course!), mermaid and manatee character photo ops and more.
  • Register for the cleanup now
Activities are included in the cost of regular admission