Twin juvenile manatees “Falcon” and “Millennium” were released in the Florida Keys Thursday by marine mammal experts with Dolphin Research Center, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Miami Seaquarium
Spectators applauded as the two-and-a-half-year-old twins were returned to an area with open-water access to Florida Bay. Each was fitted with a satellite tracking transmitter, tethered by a break away belt, to ensure the marine mammals are monitored and thrive.
“Their body condition will be checked and they’ll be looked at and tracked to make sure that the progress is smooth,” said Dolphin Research Center’s Mary Stella.
The twins were rescued after their mother “Bonnie” died from a boat strike in October 2016. When they were recovered, the calves weighed about 100 pounds each. Today the young manatees weigh about 600 pounds each.
“Every manatee life is precious,” Stella said. “These two are the offspring of a very well-known manatee named Bonnie that Dolphin Research Center and other people had been helping for many years.
“So when she was killed by a boat strike, the fact that we were able to help her twins, get them to safety, now that they are grown up and are ready to be released and can help support their species … it means a lot to the species and it means a lot to us,” Stella added.
Manatee calves usually stay with their mothers for one to two years.
Twin manatees are extremely rare, making up less than four percent of all births.
After their rescue in the Keys, the manatees were moved to Miami Seaquarium and subsequently transferred to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for full rehabilitation. Zoo director emeritus Jack Hanna participated in the release.