Conservation & Research

ORLANDO, Fla. (February 8, 2024) –

The Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership, in collaboration with SeaWorld Orlando and six other zoological and manatee care organizations, achieved a successful release.

DOWNLOAD HIGH-RES IMAGES HERE. Photo credits are contained in the file name.  

Five Rehabilitated Manatees Return to Florida Waters After Several Years of Rehabilitation

Yesterday, the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to rescue, rehabilitate, release, and monitor sick and injured manatees successfully released five orphaned manatees to Blue Spring State Park in Florida after a years’ long journey of rehabilitation by multiple members of the partnership.

The manatees were originally rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and MRP Partners between 2020 and 2021. SeaWorld Orlando, The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Brevard Zoo, Georgia Aquarium, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Save the Manatee Club, partnered closely for several years to provide treatment to fully rehabilitate these orphaned calves. In a complex release operation that took all day to complete, the sea cows are now safely home in Florida waters.

“Over the past several years, we have been called upon to rescue an increasing number of injured, sick, and orphaned manatees,” said Virginia Edmonds, President of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership. “We are grateful to our partners for stepping up to the plate to not only rescue animals in need but to commit countless hours to the collective rehabilitation of these animals, which enabled the releases today. But our work doesn’t stop here.

Every animal returned today will be fitted with a GPS tracking device that will allow researchers the ability to monitor their movements and ensure their acclimation to their natural habitat for the next year. These releases come at a critical time for the species as Florida manatees are at high risk from natural and human-caused threats.

“We pride ourselves on our nearly 50-year legacy to the rescue, rehabilitation, and return of manatees to save these beloved Florida icons who play a critical role in our ecosystem,” said Dr. Joseph Gaspard, Vice President of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando & Vice Chairman of the MRP. “While we are thrilled to lead this effort, it would not be made possible without close collaboration with our partners in the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. This was truly a team effort among the zoological community to ensure the best care was provided to return these manatees back to their natural habitat.”

Manatees that were transferred back to Florida waters:





Rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando, Miami Seaquarium and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Transported by Ideal Lease

May 2020 in Tavernier, Fla.

Weight when found: 66 pounds

Weight when moved to Columbus Zoo: 116 pounds

Weight: 960 pounds


Rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando and Columbus Zooand Aquarium
Transported by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

July 2020 in Palm Coast, Fla.

Weight: 63 pounds

Weight: 855 pounds


Rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando and Columbus Zooand Aquarium
Transported by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Found swimming alone in January 2021 in Blue SpringState Park, Fla.

Weight: 107 pounds

Weight: 815 pounds


Rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando and Georgia Aquarium
Transported by SeaWorld

December 2021 in Port St. John, Fla.

Weight: 128 pounds

Weight: 725 pounds


Rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando and Georgia Aquarium
Transported by SeaWorld

December 2021 in Blue Spring State Park, Fla.

Weight: 124 pounds

Weight: 840 pounds




Georgia Aquarium is a leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Atlanta, Ga. that is Humane Certified by American Humane and accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Georgia Aquarium is committed to working on behalf of all marine life through education, preservation, exceptional animal care, and research across the globe. Georgia Aquarium continues its mission each day to inspire, educate, and entertain its millions of guests about the aquatic biodiversity throughout the world through its engaging exhibits and tens of thousands of animals across its eight major galleries.

About the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP)

The Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) is a group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities dedicated to advancing manatee conservation through collaborative partnership. MRP partners participate in the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and post-release monitoring of manatees. This network of institutions includes acute care facilities that provide treatment to orphaned, sick, and injured manatees with the hope of one day returning them to the wild. MRP researchers collect invaluable data through manatee monitoring efforts to improve the understanding of manatee biology and health. By partnering cooperatively, MRP members work to promote stewardship and financial support of manatee conservation efforts through public education. For more information, visit us at or on social media: Facebook Twitter Instagram.

Buy Tickets