A manatee rescued from a Jacksonville storm drain is showing signs of progress while recovering at SeaWorld Orlando, but it’s not out of the wilderness just yet.
“Last night she was fairly slow-moving and subdued,” which isn’t surprising considering her plight, said Stacy DiRocco, senior veterinarian at SeaWorld. “This morning she was much more active. She was swimming normally and interacting with the other manatees.”
The 9-foot, 950-pound manatee has been under close observation and care since arriving at the amusement park Wednesday evening following her rescue, DiRocco said.
Hours earlier Jacksonville firefighters, public works crews and state wildlife officials unearthed the pipe and removed part of it to free the manatee that was discovered by a paving crew doing a resurfacing project near Davinci Avenue and Della Robbia Way about 8 a.m.
DiRocco said the manatee has been swimming normally in the critical care pool with two other recuperating manatees where it’s getting electrolytes, undergoing blood tests and receiving antibiotics to fend off any potential infection.
She said the manatee is responding well so far to treatment and rest after the ordeal, noting it was “quite feisty” Thursday morning. “That tells me she’s much stronger than she was when she arrived.”
The manatee came in with mild abrasions, but no deep traumatic wounds. While its pectoral flippers are swollen, DiRocco said she doesn’t believe they’re seriously injured.
“There might be some mild muscle damage from her being trapped for so long,” she said.
Blood work revealed its electrolyte, blood sugar and calcium levels appear to be fine, though the mammal is still a little dehydrated, DiRocco said.
Veterinarians are concerned about the manatee’s abnormally high white blood cell count, which DiRocco attributed to the anxiety it experienced while wedged in the drain amid the flurry of activity to extricate it.
“She did go through a pretty stressful event yesterday and stress can cause those white cells to go up pretty high,” she said.
While the manatee is not yet eating without help, DiRocco said she’s not concerned because it is not emaciated and appears to be a healthy weight.
The goal, DiRocco said, is to get the manatee eating on its own soon. She said the park hopes to release the manatee back into the wild within the next few days barring any setbacks in its progress.
“My sense is that there’s a good chance that this manatee should make a quick recovery,” she said.
Thursday city officials had not yet pinned down how much the endeavor, which prompted them to halt the paving project and shut down nearby roads while crews excavated and removed a section of pipe, cost.