Graduate student Kayla DaCosta (DISL) and researcher Monica Ross (Sea to Shore Alliance) fit Magnolia with her satellite GPS tag prior to release. Photo courtesy of N. Wingers/ DISL
From Lisa Young at Dauphin Island Sea Lab comes the heartwarming story of "Magnolia," the first Alabama rescued manatee to be released back into its natural habitat. Below is Magnolia's journey:
"A rehabilitated manatee that stranded in Alabama waters this winter was returned to her natural habitat yesterday by a team from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network (DISL’s MSN) and the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN), who traveled to Crystal River, Florida for the release.
"The young female manatee, nicknamed 'Magnolia,' is no stranger to the DISL researchers. She was rescued from the Magnolia River in Baldwin County, Alabama on January 4th, after failing to migrate to warmer waters before temperatures dropped to levels that are dangerous and ultimately deadly for manatees. Thanks to the efforts of DISL and collaborators, the endangered manatee was successfully transported to a rehabilitation facility at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida where she received veterinary care. One other young female manatee died from cold stress-related illness a few days before Magnolia’s successful rescue.
"Magnolia was emaciated, showing signs of cold stress, and had wounds from a boat strike when rescued, but began feeding, gaining weight, and socializing with other animals soon after her arrival and treatment at SeaWorld. Magnolia increased from 785 to 975 pounds during recovery, a sign of improving health for a manatee. With water temperatures on the rise, Magnolia was cleared for release at the warm water springs of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, which is a common overwintering area for manatees who seasonally migrate to Alabama and Mississippi waters, according to DISL research.
"The DISL team, in collaboration with Sea to Shore Alliance, a non-profit in Florida that has collaborated with DISL on manatee research since 2007, will continue to monitor Magnolia’s progress using a satellite tag with GPS capabilities, which will allow researchers to track her movements, including a possible return to Mobile Bay this summer."
Some animals return year after year to spend the summer in Mobile Bay and nearby waters, so researchers are very interested in monitoring Magnolia’s recovery, making sure she is maintaining weight and a good body condition, and ultimately finding out if she returns to Alabama and maybe even Magnolia Springs this season, according to Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael, Senior Marine Scientist at DISL.
Anyone who sees a manatee any time is asked to report sightings to DISL’s MSN at 1-866-493-5803 toll-free 24 hours, or go to manatee.disl.org for online reporting. For more information about DISL’s marine mammal research or to make a donation to support marine mammal stranding response and research contact firstname.lastname@example.org.