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Federal wildlife officials investigate care of manatees under senior vet at a Tampa zoo

A senior vet with ZooTampa is on paid leave
Posted at 8:57 PM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-01 23:19:36-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Federal wildlife officials are investigating the care of manatees under the leadership of a senior veterinarian at a Tampa zoo. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring that ZooTampa prohibit Dr. Ray Ball from undertaking any activity with manatees.

As part of the permitting process for ZooTampa to rescue, rehabilitate and release manatees, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting more information about manatee care procedures led by Dr. Ball. 

"Questions are part of the normal review process," said Joe Couceiro, CEO and President of ZooTampa at Lowry Park. 

ZooTampa, formerly known as the Lowery Park Zoo, is a member of a Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release program. The federal government oversees it. 

Federal officials are going to evaluate the zoo's response and make decisions about how it affects their authorization under the program. 

"Because of the nature of the questions posed, Dr. Ball will be on paid administrative leave while we review veterinary care procedures and gather the information needed," said Couceiro. 

A spokesperson for ZooTampa would not elaborate on the questions and concerns regarding Dr. Ball's treatment and medical care of manatees. 

During the review process, veterinary care at the zoo will be overseen by staff veterinarian, Dr. Lauren Smith.

ZooTampa has a long history of leading in manatee care and treatment. Since 1991, the zoo has helped rescue and care for more than 400 manatees. 

"We are committed to protecting this endangered Florida species," said Couceiro.

ABC Action News requested more details from federal wildlife officials. We are waiting on a response.

Dr. Ball could not be reached for comment.