APOLLO BEACH, Fla. — It’s been a deadly year for Florida’s manatees between starvation on the East Coast, boat strikes and red tide.
Yet, wildlife experts are working hard to nurse several animals back to health including a young female manatee just released back into the wild Thursday at the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach.
Two-year-old Baylo traded in her rehabilitation pool at ZooTampa where she spent two months, for the warm waters around the Teco Power Plant.
Baylo is one of the hundreds of manatees to be impacted by Tampa Bay’s large red tide bloom this past year.
Baylo was rescued on October 9 after suffering from neurological signs from red tide exposure in Long Bayou in St. Petersburg.
Statewide, FWC says red tide toxins have killed 49 manatees since January.
That’s what made the moment of releasing her so special.
FWC blames toxic red tide for killing at least 150 sea turtles and millions of tons of fish, which dolphins rely on for food.
Wildlife experts say manatees are impacted by red tide twofold because they not only eat the seagrass impacted by the toxins but they also breathe in the air as well.
Just over a week ago, Seaworld released another manatee named Ozzy at the same location in Apollo Beach. He also got sick from red tide toxins.
“it’s definitely been tough but I think that makes our job and all of our volunteers' jobs more important. We need to be able to educate and do outreach and talk to our visitors,” explained Lauren Goldsworthy Gomez of the Manatee Viewing Center.
Goldsworthy Gomez, her coworkers and partners at ZooTampa are spreading the message that it takes all of us to make a difference. Although red tide occurs naturally, fertilizer and runoff can make the blooms last longer and spread faster.
“Don’t get too caught up in the idea of I’m not going to make a difference because you will. The little steps do make a difference.” Just thinking about the fertilizer in your yard and how often you have to do that, and is it necessary. It’s important to really think about the effects you make on the environment on a daily basis,” explained Molly Lippincott of ZooTampa.