March 29, 2017
2 mins read

Dear Davi,

Where can I go if I get injured while floating along the Northeast waterways?

Maury the Manatee


Good news! Now, locally injured manatees will not have far to go for care. After a year of construction, a Manatee Critical Care Center is open at Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. This facility is a type of emergency room for sea cows that provides medical care for the gentle giants until they’re healthy enough to be released back in the wild.

The new center is able to house up to six manatees at one time and has special features to care for them. There are two heated freshwater pools, one for treatment, the other for recovery. A special platform raises and lowers manatees into the treatment pool, making it easier for the caregivers to examine and administer medications. Heavy-duty lighting is also available to make night rescues possible.

This will be the fourth manatee critical care center in the state. Other rehab centers are located in Orlando, Tampa and Miami. Having one in Northeast Florida will reduce transport time for locally rescued manatees and increase their chance of survival.

The first time I saw a manatee, I was, like–OMG! I heard a strange sound beneath the dock, looked over, and saw something strange poke its nose above the water. I was surprised, and wanted to jump in, but I also knew that watching from the dock was best because I didn’t want to scare it. After that, I pawed through facts to learn more about the quirky creatures:

Early explorers thought manatees were mermaids.
Everybody knows that seafaring menfolk favor a rubenesque figure with whiskers and a grayish complexion.

Manatees are vegetarians.
Sea cows are primarily herbivores and can be spotted chomping aquatic grasses and leafy greens. While they occasionally scoop up plankton or a wayward clam, the bulk of their diet is vegan. Some manatees can munch on food for almost half the day, eating 10 percent of their body weight. With weights of up to 1,200 pounds, that’s a whole lot of fiber!

The closest living relative to the manatee is the elephant–not the walrus.
Turns out, manatees and elephants have family ties to a prehistoric mammal that ate freshwater plants and lived in swamps and rivers.

Warm water is a must for the West Indian and West African manatee.
With low metabolic rates and very little body fat, they stick to water that’s 60°F or warmer. They may look stout and blubber-insulated, but the manatee’s large body is mostly made up of stomach and intestines.

Manatees usually surface to breathe every three to five minutes, but can last more than 20 minutes underwater if necessary.
When they do take a breath, 90 percent of the air in their lungs is replaced, compared with about 10 percent in humans.

Manatee Appreciation Day, March 29, is devoted to celebrating these spectacular mammals. Through conservation efforts, the manatee population is rebounding, but threats to the species remain a concern. It’s important to increase awareness so that these fascinating animals will continue to exist.

Happy swimming!

Davi the dachshund can’t hold his breath for 20 minutes, but he can dog-paddle like a boss.

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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