Sick manatees invite Clearwater Marine Aquarium to prepare

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The Rescue and Rehabilitation facility is working to create additional space for manatees in need of care at an offsite location in Tarpon Springs.

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla .– Just as hospitals made room for expected COVID patients last spring, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is bracing for a wave of sick manatees expected across Florida.

“Manatees really need help,” said Kelly Martin, director of animal care for Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

The greatest threat to official Florida marine mammals came from boats and their propellers. But now experts say they are also facing new threats.

“What is happening on the east coast is what we call an unusual mortality event,” Martin said. “Basically the seagrass is dying. Sea grasses are what manatees eat, so you see a lot of malnourished animals.

And on the west coast of Florida, the outlook isn’t much better.

“We of course have the red tide events,” Martin said of the current situation along the Gulf Coast. “And then in addition, in winter, there will be cold and breathtaking events. So it’s really just a winning trifecta and we are planning and preparing.

For this reason, the aquarium is preparing to help you.

They are working to expand their offsite facilities at their Tarpon Springs site and make room for additional manatees if space is needed.

“The pool right behind us will be home to manatees starting this winter,” said Martin. “Our goal is to find funding so that we can not only use this pool, but also increase our capacity so that we can continue our work.”

Manatees were removed from the endangered species list in 2017 and downgraded to “threatened” after federal wildlife managers determined the manatees were bouncing back. Now Martin is worried that may change.

“Unfortunately, given the series of events that are happening right now, we will have to look at those numbers and unfortunately maybe bring them back to this endangered status,” Martin said. “The numbers will tell and do our best to prevent it from happening.”

RELATED: Clearwater Marine Aquarium to Open Manatee Rehabilitation Center

RELATED: What Kinds of Animals Are Affected by the Red Tide?

RELATED: ‘Unprecedented’: 841 Florida Manatees Have Died So Far This Year

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