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Three injured, sick manatees rescued in summer, returned healthy to the Florida Keys

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Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau
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Special to WGCU
Three manatees similar to the one shown above, were released back into waters around the Florida Keys Tuesday after they were rehabilitated at Sea World Orlando.

Three adult male manatees rescued from waters in the Florida Keys earlier this year were returned to a Keys canal Tuesday after being treated and rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando.

Personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dolphin Research Center and Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters -- organizations that assisted with the rescues -- plus SeaWorld personnel helped transition the trio from transport trucks to land and then into the water.

Measuring as long as 11 feet, the manatees were rescued in April, June and July, respectively. Their medical conditions included a boat strike that caused a skull fracture, severe emaciation and gastric issues, dehydration and inflammation.

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Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau
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Special to WGCU
An unnamed 1,295-pound rehabilitated male manatee with healed head wounds rests before being released back to Florida Keys waters Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Key Colony Beach, Fla. The adult male, measuring nearly 11 feet long, was rescued in April 2022 after a boat strike that caused propeller wounds across its head. Following rehabilitation, the marine mammal was released with two other rehabilitated manatees Tuesday in the Florida Keys. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

Treatment at SeaWorld ranged from removing bone fragments to antibiotics and nutritional support. Recently all three manatees were determined to be healthy and able to return to Florida Keys waters.

“Three animals in the same day … there’s nothing better,” said Dr. Scott Gearhart, medical director at Dolphin Research Center. “To take in an animal that needs your help and to see them released is fantastic … all three of them.”

Marine mammal experts remind the public to be vigilant when boating in Florida waters.

“We share the waterways with these animals,” Gearhart cautioned. “They’re very slow moving and they get into stuff, and you really need to be careful about what your activity is on the water.”

People who find injured, entangled or distressed manatees should call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s wildlife hotline at 888-404-3922. Early reporting sets rescue teams in motion so that animals can be saved, marine mammal experts said.

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