TAMPA, Fla — A manatee found orphaned at a few days old is doing well as he settles in at his new ZooTampa home.
The zoo was called to assist last month when Maverick was found alone in Marco Island with no mother in sight.
The small marine mammal was only 53 pounds when he arrived at the ZooTampa facility, but now he's nearly 10 pounds heavier and is taking the bottle well for feeding.
While the little guy still needs around-the-clock care and is being monitored closely, the zoo says he is making good progress.
But he won't be heading home any time soon.
Maverick could call ZooTampa home for a couple of years as he needs to be 600 pounds and approval by the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership ahead of being released.
When he finally does get to head back into the wild, it will likely be during the wintertime when the zoo says it is most beneficial to the calf's success.
"Releasing them in the winter helps set them up for better success as a calf who was separated from their mother at a young age are considered naïve and may not know how to migrate," a zoo spokesperson said.
What's most important to understand the long process ahead for Maverick is boating safety the zoo says. It suspects his mom suffered from a watercraft injury.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's latest annual report shows that manatee mortality rates are on the rise in Florida with the state seeing 824 deaths in 2018: It's the highest number of deaths recorded in the past five years.
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