STATEMENT: Joe Couceiro, CEO and President, ZooTampa at Lowry Park
As part of the permitting process for ZooTampa to rescue, rehabilitate and release manatees, the US Fish and Wildlife service is requesting more information about manatee care procedures led by Dr. Ray Ball, senior veterinarian. Questions are part of the normal review process.
Our priority at ZooTampa is providing our animals with the highest caliber of care. I take any concern about the quality of care very seriously. We always promptly and appropriately address all questions about animal care protocols and procedures. The Zoo has processes in place that provide staff the opportunity to express any questions or concerns. We listen to and respect anyone who raises concerns, and we rely on medical professional resources, personnel, and when needed, external veterinary experts to evaluate.
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. To assist the Zoo during this process, we are gathering a panel of external veterinary experts in manatee care to review processes and procedures.
During this 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, and since 1991, we have helped rescue and care for more than 400 manatees. We are committed to protecting this endangered Florida species, and look forward to reopening our manatee critical care center which offers lifesaving to rehabilitation care for manatees most in need.