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The Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) was established in late 2001 and marks the beginning of a new era of cooperation in the manatee rehabilitation effort. Non-profit, private, state, and federal entities came together to collaborate in tracking the post-release status of rehabilitated manatees in the wild. The partners include: Cincinnati Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Florida Marine Research Institute, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, Lowry Park Zoo, Miami Seaquarium, Save the Manatee Club, SeaWorld Florida, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Florida, United States Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project, Walt Disney World's EPCOT-Living Seas and The Wildlife Trust.
Prior to the formation of the partnership, state and federal agencies were the exclusive providers of post-release monitoring for Florida manatees rehabilitated at permitted and contracted manatee rehabilitation facilities in Florida. With escalating manatee conservation needs, these agencies were no longer able to bear sole responsibility for providing this service. However, tracking the fate and health of rehabilitated and released manatees is essential to determining the successful contribution of the rehabilitation program to the recovery of Florida manatee populations.
Post-release monitoring of manatees involves tracking the animals for a full year (using satellite and radio telemetry) and includes three comprehensive health assessments in the field during that time. If, at the end of 12 months, the animal is thriving (i.e., receives medical clearance from the attending veterinarian and behaves similarly to a “wild” manatee), it is deemed a success and all tracking equipment is removed from the manatee.
Monitoring rehabilitated manatees after release provides critical information needed to determine which factors may be associated with an individual’s ability to adapt or readapt to the wild. Also, monitoring after release provides opportunities for periodic evaluations of progress and intervention if an individual does not adapt well. Veterinarians and husbandry staff have developed very effective protocols for the treatment of sick manatees and the successful recovery and release of these animals have increased over the years.
Since 1973, over 180 manatees have been treated and released back into the wild. The MRP has been responsible for monitoring 24 manatees since 2001. Each individual that returns to the breeding wild manatee population contributes to the reproductive capacity of the population and its viability and ability to grow. For more information on this partnership or to see the latest tracking information, please see their website at www.wildtracks.org.