TAMPA, Fla. (June 30, 2022) – ZooTampa joined forces with the Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center in Puerto Rico to give a rescued manatee a chance at life. As one of only two critical care centers in the United States for orphaned calves, ZooTampa was called upon to share its more than 30 years of experience to help Nanichi, a two-month-old calf, take a bottle.
After a day of hands-on training with the Curator of Florida and Manatees at ZooTampa Molly Lippincott, Nanichi successfully took a bottle and is on her way on the long journey of rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild.
“ZooTampa is humbled to be a part of this effort to help preserve the manatee population,” said Lippincott. “We value the dedicated and passionate work that our colleagues at the Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center at Inter American University of Puerto Rico undertake daily. They are a small facility, but with a mighty team that does amazing work with the conservation of manatees, birds and sea turtles not only in Puerto Rico but throughout the Caribbean.”
The manatee team in Puerto Rico named the baby Nanichi, a word derived from the original Taino language of the Greater Antilles, for “my love or my heart”. She was rescued at about a week old on the shores of beach Clavellina in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico’s south coast, after being found by locals.
“Our Center is grateful to ZooTampa and its manatee care personnel for sharing with us the challenges and solutions in nursing manatee calves back to health,” said Antonio Mignucci, director of the Center and marine sciences professor at the Inter American University’s Bayamón Campus, where the Center resides. The Center currently has five manatee patients, including one long-term care Florida manatee which originally came from ZooTampa after years of rehabilitation. “Caring for Guacara the Florida manatee since 2010 aligned us with ZooTampa, and now with the help they offered with Nanichi, the Zoo and the Center solidified what the partnership is about, the caring for and saving threatened species like the manatee,” added Mignucci.
“We are happy to extend our expertise to our neighbors in Puerto Rico and like many of their residents, we are rooting for Nanichi! Manatees are an incredibly resilient species facing many obstacles,” said Director of Conservation at ZooTampa, Tiffany Burns. “The only way we can help with the long-term survival of this amazing species is by all of the members of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) collaborating and building strong partnerships with the community.”
Manatee photos and video taken by ZooTampa under USFWS Permit No. MA90101C and under the authority of USFWS MA69720D & PRDNER-CSN LOA 2020-2025 permits.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park is a leader in wildlife conservation. Its state-of-the-art critical care center has cared for more than 500 injured, sick, and orphaned manatees with the majority returned to Florida waters. A dedicated team of animal care and medical staff tend to manatees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ZooTampa is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is an active member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state and federal entities dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and monitoring of manatees.
The Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center is the only federally-authorized manatee critical care facility in the Caribbean. With an animal care and veterinary staff of 15, plus 100 volunteers, interns and students, the Center serves as a research and veterinary hospital for manatees, sea turtles and coastal birds. As other manatee facilities in the United States, the Center is an active member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). Additional information on the Center can be found at www.manatipr.org.