ZooTampa returns rehabilitated manatee to Florida waters

After receiving care at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, a former manatee care patient named Roomba is healthy and once again living on his own in native Florida waters. The Zoo’s lead manatee veterinarian, Lauren Smith, D.V.M. facilitated Roomba’s successful release to the wild in partnership with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Roomba, a male manatee, is the first patient to be returned to the wild since the Zoo resumed caring for critically injured and sickened manatees at its recently renovated David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center. In 2018, Roomba was struck by a boat and rescued from the Crystal River with a collapsed lung. He was treated at SeaWorld before coming to the Zoo to complete his rehabilitation. Roomba’s release marks the achievement of the Zoo’s mission, the rescue and rehabilitation of this iconic Florida species so they can be returned to the wild.

“We’re thrilled with the great strides Roomba has made. He made a tremendous recovery and all signs indicate Roomba will continue to live a healthy life in Florida’s waters,” said Dr. Smith. “The team kept a close eye on Roomba as he continued to live in our supportive environment with access to regular monitoring and quality care at the Zoo.”

Manatees face serious threats such as loss of warm water habitats and human conflict, including boat strikes. The Zoo is committed to the conservation of the species by continuing to rescue, rehabilitate and release even more severely injured and sickened Florida manatees.

“Thanks to the great work of our veterinary and animal care teams, and the generosity of our supporters and the Florida legislature who contributed to the Center’s renovations, the Zoo is continuing to fulfill an important part of its mission,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, senior vice president and chief zoological officer at ZooTampa. “It’s stories such as Roomba’s that demonstrate our commitment to providing quality care for Florida’s wildlife.”

Visitors can observe other manatee patients, including Cayo, mom Heinz and her calf Sriracha, as they continue their recoveries at the Zoo.

About ZooTampa at Lowry Park

ZooTampa at Lowry Park is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to excellence in conservation, education, recreation and research. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is featured among the “Top 25 Zoos in the U.S” by TripAdvisor (2015). The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours for select events. Parking is free. For more, visit www.ZooTampa.org or call (813) 935-8552. Also, find the Zoo on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.