Plantaina, a 680-pound manatee, was successfully released by animal care experts from Walt Disney World Resort working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The release took place at Blue Spring State Park, about 50 miles northeast of Walt Disney World Resort.
When she was just 28 pounds, Plantaina became the smallest manatee ever rescued. After an initial rehab and release back into their natural habitat (Feb 2021), it became clear that this tiny bottle-nose dolphin had been losing weight rapidly – requiring yet another flight for help! This time around though we were able to keep her with us at The Seas attraction inside EPCOT where 24 other marine mammals have found sanctuary since opening day 2001; all thanks again Disney’s amazing dedication towards saving these creatures lives
“Manatees are an iconic species in Florida, and their conservation impacts all of us” said veterinarian Scott Terrell, DVM, and director of animal & science operations at Walt Disney World Resort. “Caring for these amazing creatures benefits all of the animals that live in their coastal habitats and the human communities around them.”
Disney animal care experts have been collaborating with other rehabilitation facilities for years now, as part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). This partnership not only helps provide injured manatees with stable environments but also veterinary care that includes preventive health exams and around-the clock monitoring to help them make recoveries back into wild when they’re ready! Some individuals like Plantaina get satellite tracking devices placed on their bodies so we can continue follow his progress after release – it’s incredible what these small acts do in helping us better understand our environment.
Unfortunately, manatee rescues and rehabilitation are becoming a lot more common in Florida. A severe lack of food is causing concern as runoff and pollution continue to threaten their main food source. Each of these large herbivores can eat up to 300 pounds of seagrass a day, and many are beginning to starve from the lack of aquatic plants, further impacting this endangered species.
Plantaina is one of six manatees to complete rehabilitation at Walt Disney World Resort over the last year. Manatees in rehabilitation at Disney may receive up to 150 heads of romaine lettuce each day depending on their individual needs, along with the occasional treat of apples, carrots and sweet potatoes, to help them return to their natural weight before they are able to be released.
In addition to the releases, the Disney Conservation Fund has provided grants to more than 15 nonprofit organizations to better understand manatee populations, biology and habitat use, aid in the restoration of seagrass, and provide care for manatees.
These manatee releases, along with funding from the Disney Conservation Fund and knowledge and expertise from Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, help make a difference in the conservation of this amazing species.
*Footage was produced under the authority of USFWS Permit No. MA770191