JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 20, 2020) — Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recognized Manatee Awareness Month in a prominent way with the release of a female manatee in Daytona Beach waters Thursday after she spent three months at the Zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center.

The manatee named Lusia, after the county she was rescued in, is the third release for the Zoo in 2020 and 16th total since the opening of the Manatee Critical Care Center. Staff has estimated her to be around 4 years old due to her size, weighing 713 pounds at her release.

Lusia was rescued on Aug. 22 when she was found floating buoyant on her left side. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) rescued her with the help of the Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team. Her injuries indicated a boat strike and included a linear wound across her back, fractured ribs, and a partially collapsed lung.

“When we received Lusia, we were guarded about her survival due to the extent of her injuries. Our Vet team started supportive care right away and eventually worked to alleviate the trapped air from her punctured lung, and our keeper staff continually cared for and monitored her. She maintained a good appetite and behavior overall, which helped in her recovery. It’s great to finally release her and we hope Lusia’s story reminds all of us boaters to remain aware of manatees and other marine life out on the water,” said Craig Miller, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Curator of Mammals.

Manatee Awareness Month brings awareness to an urgent issue and is a sharp reminder for boaters to slow down during water activities as much as possible, always follow posted speed zones, wear polarized sunglasses to help spot manatees, stay a safe distance away if spotted, and remain in deep water channels whenever possible.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Manatee Critical Care Center is an acute care, rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical treatment to rescued manatees. The manatee rescue and rehabilitation program is the Zoo’s largest regional conservation initiative, caring for 23 manatees since the Center opened in 2017.

 Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, along with other zoos, aquariums, non-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, comprise the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership and work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at manateerescue.org. Florida manatees are a federally-protected threatened species, at significant risk from both natural and human threats. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, disease, boat strikes, crushing by floodgates and locks, line entanglement, and ingestion of pollution and debris are just some of the hazards facing one of Florida’s most iconic animals.

To report an injured marine mammal, call the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC) or dial *FWC on a cellular device.

About Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
For over 100 years, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has aimed to inspire the discovery and appreciation of wildlife through innovative experiences in a caring environment. Starting in 1914 with an animal collection of one red deer fawn, the Zoo now has more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 species of plants, boasting the largest botanical garden in Northeast Florida. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit organization and a portion of every ticket sold goes to the over 45 conservation initiatives Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens supports around the world, and here in NE Florida. JZG is proud to be an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For more information, visit jacksonvillezoo.org.