Impactful Work for Florida's Manatees

November 22, 2021

For 45 years SeaWorld has been committed to the rescue, rehabilitation, and return of manatees. With the species being somewhat unique to the eastern seaboard – and many being right outside our doors in Florida – they hold a special place in our hearts.  In fact, they are Florida’s official marine mammal.  Over the years, these gentle giants have been through the ringer; many natural and man-made threats have proven difficult for these curious creatures, and organizations like ours have had to step in to ensure the populations continue to thrive.

Manatees bottle feeding in SeaWorld Orlando's Manatee Rehabilitation Area

SeaWorld operates the largest manatee rescue operation in the world with support from a number of different partners, including Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and many more through our work with the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). Our five-acre Rescue Center is one of only five critical care facilities in the U.S. and can care for up to 40 manatees at a time. The center is equipped with cutting-edge critical care technology, including lifting floors, top-of-the-line therapeutic and diagnostic equipment, and expert veterinary staff. Our teams have pioneered manatee treatment techniques including ultrasounds, anesthesia, X-rays, surgery, and thermography. Veterinarians on our team were even the first to fit a cast on an injured manatee!

Manatee eating lettuce

In addition to our rescue, rehabilitation, and return efforts, SeaWorld partners with local area schools through Eco Club programs. For example, the Eco Club at Millenia Gardens Elementary School is growing lettuce to help feed manatees while the club at Westridge Middle School is raising bees and harvesting honey for use in animal wound care.  More than 125 kids and teens participate in these two programs today.

Through the SeaWorld Conservation Fund, we’ve provided more than 16 grants over the last 18 years to support global manatee causes. Projects range from care and feeding of orphaned manatee calves, research on the impact of anthropogenic sound in the marine environment, studying watercraft mortality of the Antillean manatee and emerging threats due to the rise in cruise ship tourism, and establishing patrols to protect West Indian manatee sanctuaries near the Belize/Mexico border.

When it comes to manatees, our work is never over. We’ll always be on call (alongside our valued partners) to jump into a rescue or offer a safe space for an injured manatee to recover because the species depends on it. Without that support, manatees are at risk of being returned to the endangered species list – or worse.

To report a manatee in distress in Florida, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). The Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership also offers a helpful list of what to do to help a stranded manatee.