Wildlife photographer Michael George captured an adorable video of a baby manatee that’s going viral on Instagram. The National Geographic shutterbug was at SeaWorld working on his book, Life at the Zoo: The Secret World of Your Favorite Animals, when he was given the opportunity to see the unique bond between rescued baby manatees and the woman who bottle-feeds them.
Per WSVN7, George’s book is for children, and it’s filled with imagery that helps showcase the importance of zoos for animal rescue, breeding, and conservation programs. The manatee in question was being fed inside SeaWorld Orlando’s Manatee Rehabilitation Area. The woman providing the hungry manatee calf with sustenance is clearly a big fan of these creatures, as evidenced by the manatee tattoo on her arm.
SeaWorld became a vital rescue resource last year, due to Florida’s toxic red tide issues. As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, the aquatic theme park served as an emergency room for approximately 55 manatees throughout 2018. In many cases, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent out their special “Manatee Rescue” trucks to pick up the ill or injured sea cows. They were then transported to SeaWorld Orlando for medical treatment.
From July to September of 2018, 15 manatees that became critically ill from exposure to the red tide were taken to the Manatee Rehabilitation Area. SeaWorld was able to nurse 13 of them back to health. This is part of SeaWorld’s overall rescue and rehabilitation work, but it also serves as a good way for the company to distance itself from its controversial past.
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To celebrate the 2nd printing of ‘Life at the Zoo’ I am doing a *~BOOK GIVEAWAY~* on @thephotosociety Instagram today! Go enter if you’re interested ???????????? Also ... I had to put the baby manatee video up as a post so it can live here forever and y’all can watch it whenever you’re sad.
The Blackfish documentary caused such a massive backlash from animal lovers and theme park attendees that SeaWorld announced major changes in 2016. Since then, orca breeding has been eliminated at the parks. The former orca entertainment shows were also switched to educational encounters. This not only helped to meet some of the public’s demands, but it also became illegal to do otherwise in California.
According to National Geographic, California instituted a ban on any “circus-like” shows featuring orcas, along with making it illegal statewide to do any in-captivity orca breeding programs. It took a few years for public sentiment to adjust to the new policy and legal changes, but the Orlando Sentinel indicated that attendance was finally on the rise again as of the third quarter of 2018.
Dolphins.org states that baby manatees weigh up to 70 pounds at birth. By the time they reach full maturity, these distant relatives of elephants typically weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds. In other words, SeaWorld’s dedicated bottle-feeder won’t be able to pick up her baby manatee friends for much longer.