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A Miracle Manatee: Lagoona’s Story

August 2, 2018
SeaWorld and local and federal partners give intensive care to most injured marine mammals.

One of the most severe manatee rescue cases experts have seen had a happy ending last month when Lagoona, a juvenile manatee, was returned to Florida waters after more than a year in intensive rehabilitation.

Lagoona’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous. When SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team, along with partners from the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), rescued Lagoona in May 2017, she was swimming in circles after suffering life-threatening boat strikes to the head and neck. She was deemed a critical case and brought to SeaWorld Orlando’s Manatee Rehabilitation Area for evaluation, as the park is one of only four critical care facilities for threatened manatees in the state of Florida. 

Lagoona’s case was one of the worst members of the partnership had seen triaging for one of the most threatened marine mammals in the country. Watercraft strikes are one of the most common causes of injury and death for the species, but manatees like Lagoona also face a range of threats beyond boat strikes – such as cold stress, red tide, entanglement, entrapment and habitat loss. SeaWorld has rescued 41 manatees in 2018 alone and 667 manatees since 1979, and many of these rescues have resulted from collaborations with partners like those in MRP.

Thankfully for Lagoona, SeaWorld Orlando and its partners were able to swiftly provide the intensive care that she needed. SeaWorld Orlando is a recognized critical care facility, due to its extensive resources and equipment to care for injured manatees – including lifting floors in medical pools, designated stranding pools and medical pools, and medical advances such as manatee feeding formulas and radiology and surgery equipment for severe cases. SeaWorld Orlando immediately deployed every tool to help Lagoona recover: from working with partners to conduct CT scans and X-rays to assess the extent of her injuries, to antibiotics and a honey therapy to treat her wounds (thanks to SeaWorld’s Honey Bee and Pollinator Conservation Program).

While SeaWorld Orlando is proud to play a key role in Lagoona’s rescue and rehabilitation, the SeaWorld team couldn’t have done it alone. SeaWorld is a member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), which includes other key partners and manatee rescue centers such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Florida Museum and Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. Each of these partners played an important role in Lagoona’s rescue and recovery, and her story might not have been the same without them.

How You Can Help Save Manatees

While SeaWorld Orlando and the MRP are dedicated to helping inspire and advance manatee conservation, there are steps that people can take every day to help protect this threatened species. This includes careful boating to avoid boat strikes, properly disposing of fishing line and hooks and keeping waterways free from plastics and trash. Manatees need our help, and everyone can play a role in their protection and conservation.

We also encourage you to learn more about our work, our partners and how we can all help this species at SeaWorld Orlando’s Manatee Rehabilitation, where guests can experience behind-the-scenes rescue and rehabilitation work firsthand, visit the rescued manatees (pro tip: try to catch them during their daily bottle feeding, which is always an experience), and learn even more through the interactive displays and powerful rescue footage on site. By educating ourselves about the dangers this species faces and what we can do to protect them, we can all play a part in saving our oceans’ manatees.