What is it about?

Admissions into the manatee rehabilitation hospital at a regional critical care facility on the Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida was reviewed. From 1991 thru October 2017 401 manatees were admitted. Watercraft injuries and natural causes were the leading causes of admission and essentially equal. Orphans calves made up 12% of the admissions. The distribution of males to females were also practically the same. The overall admission rate steadily climbed during this entire period. In addition to reducing mortality, rehabilitation allows opportunities to study naturally occurring health challenges to manatees and explore ways to intervene.

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Why is it important?

In addition to potentially reducing mortality of manatees, this work has provided the opportunity to discover that the underlying cause of cold stress in manatees is a clotting disorder, utilizing atropine in red tide toxicity shortens recovery times, and manatees are susceptible to metabolic syndrome and diabetes once in captivity. Understanding trends of rehabilitation hospital admissions also can help managers allocate resources and improve efficiencies.


This work represents the first half of an overall assessment of the epidemiology of manatee rehabilitation from a single facility. One important trend seen is that the admissions rates are increasing but the overall population of manatees is also increasing. The second part of this epidemiology study has shown that manatee rehabilitation can be improved with shorter hospitalization times and still improve release rates in spite rising admissions. Wildlife rehabilitation rarely contributes directly to wildlife conservation and the recovery of the Florida manatee can be directly attributed to environmental management and protection efforts. Rehabilitation is most useful as a means of education and outreach messaging and manatee rehabilitation has done this exceptionably well. Manatee rehabilitation has allowed for an increased understanding of manatee biology and physiology which can be applied to both improved outcomes of rehabilitation and also be applied to in situ situations.

Ray Ball
Eckerd College

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This page is a summary of: Trends of the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) rehabilitation admissions 1991-2017, PLoS ONE, July 2020, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223207.
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