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Rehabilitated Manatee Gives Birth at Zoo

A rescued manatee is now a mother of two at Lowry Park Zoo.

Submitted by Lowry Park Zoo

An adult female manatee rescued on Jan. 31 gave birth last month to a full-term male calf at the David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Hospital at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

The birth marks only the fourth in the hospital’s history, with the first occurring in May of 2000. While at the Zoo, the mother nicknamed Joannie has also became a surrogate mother to an orphaned calf.

Joannie successfully gave birth to her own calf in the early morning hours on July 13. Aware that she was expecting, the Zoo’s manatee rehab team had been monitoring her for several months, watching and waiting to find out if the calf had survived its mother’s injuries. The male newborn, nicknamed "Lad", is healthy and weighed 66.8 pounds after birth. He has been growing at the rate of approximately 10 pounds per week.             

Joannie was rescued from the St. John’s River in Jacksonville suffering from cold stress, which can be likened to hypothermia in humans. The consequences of cold stress can be severe and often result in death. After several months of care, Joannie had recovered and appeared ready for return to Florida waters, though her expectant condition delayed her release. After the birth of Lad, Joannie became a mother a second time to an orphan nicknamed "Cheeno".

Cheeno arrived at the Zoo on Feb. 15 from the Caloosahatchee River in Cape Coral suffering from cold stress as well. Though not a newborn at 142 pounds, he was too young to be separated from his birth mother, and has now established a bond with Joannie. On occasion, Lad and Cheeno can be observed nursing at the same time, on opposite sides. With Joannie’s help, Cheeno is packing on the pounds. 

The Zoo’s manatee rehab team hope to release the mother manatee with her own dependent calf and “adopted” orphan calf this fall or winter. 

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