TAMPA, Fla. — An orphaned manatee calf will be calling ZooTampa home for a while.
The manatee, named Harlo, was only a few days old when she was found by a person in Port Charlotte earlier this month. ZooTampa says that person called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to save her. FWC stayed with her and waited for her mom to show up but she never did.
Then, Harlo was taken to ZooTampa where she is being well cared for. She is bottle-fed every three hours. Their hopes are she gains about a pound a week.
Once Harlo gets to weighing 600 pounds, she will be released back into the wild.
ZooTampa says the next few months are key as she continues to grow and be introduced to romaine.
Harlo isn't spending her days at the zoo alone. There is another orphan manatee there with her that was found last week and a manatee that was hit by a boat last month.
ZooTampa says the three have become fast friends.
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.
Only 2013 topped the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's latest annual report by six deaths, coming in at 830.
In the years between, numbers ranged from 371 to 538 deaths. The years 2016 and 2017 reported nearly similar numbers with manatee deaths sitting at 520 and 538, respectively.
Meaning, as the report currently stands, an additional 286 manatees died between 2017-18, marking another five-year milestone for the largest spike in deaths for the state since 2013
The FWC's Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory each year tracks both the numbers and cause of death for the sea cows.
The report is broken down into nine categories:
- Crushed/drowned in flood gate or canal lock
- Other: human-related
- Cold Stress
- Other: natural
- Undetermined: too decomposed
- Undetermined: other
- Verified/not recovered
According to the FWC, the largest leading cause of death was natural causes, with 233 manatees dying from infectious and non-infectious diseases, birth complications, natural accidents and natural catastrophes, like red tide.
In 2018, Florida was ravaged by red tide, killing manatees and dolphins, among other sea creatures alike. The most well-known red-tide-causing organism in Florida is known as Karenia brevis, which blooms in the Gulf of Mexico almost every year, according to the FWC.
The FWC Wildlife Alert Toll-Free number is 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).
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