Manatee medical mission checks the health of manatees in Kings Bay

CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. — Biologists and researchers from all over the country are in Crystal River checking out the health of the manatees in Kings Bay.

"It takes a small army to catch these 1000 to 2000 pound manatees, put them on a boat and process them in a clinical atmosphere where we can learn about their biology and how healthy they are," said Dr. Bob Bonde, a research biologist for USGS.

Manatees were once endangered, now they're considered a threatened species. 

"That's because when I started nearly 40 years ago there were less than 1000 manatees. Today there’s more than 6000 manatees," Bonde said.

Biologists like Bonde want that number to keep growing. The worked fast to capture the manatees give them a full body check-up in no longer than 30 to 40 minutes. 

Dr. Maggie Hunter a research geneticist said they test many things, "Blood, fecal, urine, skin. Anything that can give us some information on the health and toxicology of the environment." 

One goal is making sure nothing in the Kings Bay Area, where nearly 1000 manatees hang out during the winter,  is harmful.

"They look great so far, they look pretty healthy, pretty round like we like to see them, not skinny. We don’t see any cold stress on them," Hunter said.

Bonde says boats are the manatees biggest threat. "We see the testament of that when we capture manatees and see the scars on their bodies."

He says its important for the research to continue to make sure the population keeps growing. 

"If we can make it a better place for the manatees to live here on earth, we make it a better place for all of us," Bonde said.

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