Tampa aids in efforts to save manatees from red tide

April 24, 2013 by  

At the start of the month, a story emerged of a manatee that had almost stopped breathing before being found by quick-thinking rescuers and taken to a local zoo, where it become the 13th ailing manatee it has managed to save.

Lowery Park Zoo in Tampa, which has among its facilities a hospital that provides critical care to manatees specifically, has a perfect record of saving all 13 of the manatees brought to it to date. The director, Virginia Edmonds, says that by the time the manatees are found, they are in great distress and it can difficult to save them. Since they are mammals, not fish, they can drown.

The cause of the distress to the creature is red tides, which are natural phenomena that occur when certain algae bloom. The problem is that the algae release microscopic amounts of poison which transfer to the manatees’ natural food sources. When manatees ingest the toxins, which paralyze their central nervous system, the animals can drown.

Edmonds reveals that the hospital’s priority during the critical first period of care, usual cited as 24-48 hours, is getting the animals to breathe. Since manatees cannot breathe underwater, workers concentrate on making sure the animals do not turn onto their backs. A manatee in this position cannot lift its head from the water and will drown. The manatees are also given antibiotics to prevent infection.

Edmonds and other officials could consider working with flyer printing experts to create a mailer asking for help with the manatee watch, which is ongoing.