There were about 300 manatee deaths in Southwest Florida in 2013 due to red tide. The toxins from red tides affect them when they breathe them in or ingest them while munching on sea grass. Through extensive response efforts, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation and partners rescued 16 manatees suffering from the effects of the red tide bloom. Fifteen manatees survived after they were initially taken to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, the only manatee hospital that treats sea cows with red-tide afflictions.
In June, the first rescued manatees were released. “Cinda”, a 605 pound female and “Gibb”, a 1058 pound male, rescued in Placida harbor, were released into the wild in Boca Grande near the inlet on Gasparilla Island. An additional seven manatees found in the Caloosahatchee and Orange River were released on July 9th, at Horton Park in Cape Coral. The manatees will eventually make their way to Estero Bay or back to the Orange River. Marine mammal researchers aim to release the manatees near their rescue location, due to their familiarity with the area. The remaining manatees are expected to be released over the rest of the summer months.