This has been a bad year for manatees in Florida. According to Dr. Billy Gunnels, a Professor of Animal Behavior at Florida Gulf Coast University, more than 1,000 manatees have died in Florida in 2021, a grim record for the state. Out of this crisis, however, springs a heartwarming story of recovery.
Back in October, a seven-foot-long female manatee was struck by a boat in Fort Myers Beach. She suffered from six broken ribs, and she underwent surgery to restore her ability to dive. Over the past month, she has been rehabilitating at SeaWorld Orlando, and she was successfully released back into the wild on Monday at the Orange Harbor Mobile Home and RV Resort boat ramp.
Similar rehab efforts for other injured manatees are ongoing in the state, but many experts say more has to be done to save this species. Boaters must be diligent and remain at least 50 feet from manatees at all times. However, only 25% of manatee deaths are the result of boat strikes, which means environmental issues are likely also at play, according to Gunnels. The FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) is now asking the state for $7 million to research what’s actually killing the species.