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ZooTampa: On A Mission to Save a Species

It’s been a rough year for manatees, who are facing a record number of fatalities resulting from an unusual mortality event, increased watercraft injuries, severe weather and red tide.

ZooTampa’s David A. Straz, Jr. Critical Care Center is one of only four facilities of its kind that specializes in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick, injured and orphaned manatees. They have a team working around the clock to save this iconic Florida species.

The Zoo’s unwavering commitment to manatees has been at the heart of our mission for more than 20 years. Our critical care center has cared for more than 500 rescued manatees, with the majority returned to Florida waters. Currently, the center is home to 20 manatees, including several calves that need constant care to survive.

As champions for all Florida wildlife, our mission is not only to save animals but to also create exceptional experiences that connect visitors with the creatures entrusted to our care. The objective is clear: to inspire guests, members, partner organizations and the community to join us to protect wildlife both in our backyards and around the globe. We are committed to addressing key conservation issues and we strategically focus on conservation initiatives that amplify our expertise and create partnerships that maximize our ability to protect and preserve nature successfully.

When you visit ZooTampa, you’re helping to support conservation efforts. Our goal is that families who spend a day at ZooTampa not only leave with memories to last a lifetime, but are also inspired to join us in protecting and preserving wildlife.

You can help protect our state’s sea cows for future generations to enjoy by following these boater safety tips:

  • Have someone designated as a “manatee lookout” on your boat
  • Look for “footprints” left in the water by manatees (those circle patterns left on the water’s surface when a manatee surfaces to breathe)
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to better spot manatees underwater
  • Follow all posted signs and GO SLOW in manatee zones, avoiding shallow waters where manatees feed and rest
  • Last but not least, if you accidentally hit a manatee or see an injured manatee, please report it immediately to Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manatee hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device. The sooner an animal can get help at a manatee critical care center, like ZooTampa, the better chance of its survival.

If you live around manatees, you can:

  • Report distressed or deceased manatees to 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or by using the FWC Reporter App.
  • NOT feed manatees. If you are concerned about lack of food for a manatee, call the hotline.
  • Help prevent algal blooms by reducing nutrient pollution. If you live near a waterway, don’t fertilize your lawn or only do so once a year using slow-release nitrogen fertilizers between Sept. 30 and June 1.

Together we can save this iconic Florida species. One Mission. One World. #ZTSaves

Presented by ZooTampa  |  Photos provided by ZooTampa  |  Originally published in our 2021 September Issue  

Tiffany Burns
Tiffany Burns
Tiffany Burns is the Director of Conservation, Research & Behavior at ZooTampa.

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