SeaWorld Hosts a Press Conference on Public Private Partnership to Save the ManateeMarch 24, 2022
In response to the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) impacting manatees on the East Coast, SeaWorld will double the critical care space at its Rescue facility in Orlando. This new construction will add 200,000 additional gallons of water to care for critically ill manatees and a new 40-by-40-foot critical care lift floor for an existing pool. Once completed, SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue facility will be able to provide critical care for 60+ manatees, the largest capacity in Florida and in the U.S.
SeaWorld’s Chief Zoological Officer Dr. Chris Dold shared the news at a press conference on ‘the Public / Private Partnership to Save the Manatee’ held on March 22 at SeaWorld Orlando.The press conference included speakers Congressman Darren Soto and representatives from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and US Fish and Wildlife Services.
Manatees are a vital part of the marine ecosystem. They are an indicator species that can be an early signal in changes to the biological condition of a particular ecosystem, and thus may be used as a proxy to diagnose the health of an ecosystem.
A UME poses a serious threat to manatees with more than 1,100 manatee deaths in 2021. As the crisis affecting manatees continues, the need for strong partnerships and collaborations across the public and private sectors increases. State and federal groups like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, together with legislators, are vitally important to effectively respond to the ongoing crisis. Just last year, Congressman Soto co-introduced the Manatee Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that grants manatees the highest level of federal protection available.
Press conference speakers, from left to right: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director Leo Miranda-Castro, Florida Congressman Darren Soto, Chief Zoological Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Dr. Chris Dold, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Regional Director Dr. Tom Reinert
“Over 60 manatees have been rescued and rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando in the last 12 months, and this January saw the largest number of rescues ever for that month,” said Dr. Dold. “These high rescue numbers are straining existing critical care space, and therefore necessitate facility expansion so SeaWorld and our partners can better care for these animals.”
Dr. Chris Dold
Manatees face many threats, most dramatically starvation due to depletion of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon, along with cold stress, injuries from boat strikes, entanglements, and other illnesses.
“Partnerships are the key to success. With the help of SeaWorld, FWC and similar institutions, and Congressman Soto and his counterparts, we can support and conserve manatees,” said Leo Miranda-Castro of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “It might take some time and hard work, but we will get it done.”
“Our State’s official marine animal – the manatee – has a special place in every Floridian’s heart. I’d like to thank SeaWorld and other MRP partners for all they do to help rescue animals in need and provide the best care and rehabilitation possible to successfully get them back into coastal waters,” said Florida Congressman Darren Soto. “I hear consistently from my constituents that helping manatees is an issue of high importance to them. Therefore, the Manatee Protection Act is yet another important way we can help by granting the manatee the highest level of federal protection possible.”
“I extend my sincerest gratitude to Congressman Soto, USFWS, FWC, and all our dedicated partners in the MRP for their continued support and dedication to manatee preservation,” said Dr. Dold. “Manatees are in serious crisis. The continued support and collaboration from as many partners as possible is critical in fighting for their survival.”
“Calls to the Wildlife Alert Hotline by concerned Florida citizens and visitors are the number one way we hear about injured or sick manatees,” said Dr. Tom Reinert, Regional Director for the FWC. “We depend on everyday people to help us in our manatee conservation and rescue mission.”
If you see a manatee in distress, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922) and #FWC or *FWC from your mobile phone.