Florida Manatee: The Story of “Martide” If you are fortunate enough to enjoy Florida’s warm coastal waters and springs, you might have the opportunity to see a unique species of marine mammal, the Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. Manatees are often referred to as “sea cows” because they are herbivores that graze on freshwater and saltwater plants. Florida manatees were once on the brink of extinction. There are natural threats to manatees in the wild, like cold stress, pneumonia and other diseases, but much more often manatees are affected by human-related activities like boating accidents, getting trapped in flood control structures, swallowing fish hooks and litter, and harmful algal blooms. The story of one of those manatee patients follows. A young male manatee named “Martide,” was rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) after stranding himself on a beach, suffering from seizures. Martide had been poisoned by red tide, a seasonal toxic algal bloom that harms many marine animals. Red tide affects the manatee’s nervous system and they
34 • September 2017
Say you saw it in the Gulf Coast Family Newspaper
are unable to control their muscles. First, FWC had to get Martide safely to the Zoo’s Manatee Hospital in a big box truck. Manatees can be safely out of the water for a few hours, but his rescuers misted him with water to keep his skin moist. Once Martide reached the Zoo, a dozen members of the staff and FWC volunteers lifted him off the truck and into a special sling, attached to a large crane. The crane then lifted him into Medical Pool 1 where the Zoo’s veterinary staff weighed and measured him, took his vital signs, and started treatment for his condition. Martide, like other manatees infected with red tide, received 24/7 care from the Zoo staff until the toxin was out of his system and he regained control of his muscles. For some red tide manatees, rehabilitation can take as much as 2-3 years. Martide spent only a month in the Manatee Hospital before he fully recovered and could be returned to the wild. Martide is just one of our success stories. Since 1991, the David A. Straz Manatee Hospital at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has treated over 400 Florida manatees. www.gulfcoastfamily.org
Published on Sep 1, 2017
Published on Sep 1, 2017
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