JACKSONVILLE Fla.-- A Jacksonville manatee successfully returned home to the St. Johns River on Tuesday; plus one.
The 1,225-pound Joannie was carrying her calf when she was rescued from the JEA power plant in North Jacksonville in January. Nearly eight months later, she was released with her calf named Lad.
Joannie could have died from cold stress and lesions all over her body when the Jacksonville Zoo rescued her in January. But Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo nursed her and her newborn back to health, and returned them to their home in the River City.
"The animals originated here in these waters so fish and wildlife service wants them returned to where they were rescued," said Dan Maloney, Deputy Director of Conservation at the Jacksonville Zoo.
The Jacksonville Zoo, Florida Fish and Wildlife and Tampa Lowry Park Zoo released the manatee and her calf back into the river from a boat ramp. Volunteers say the experience is one they'll never forget.
"Being in the water with the manatee and just actually being a part of the physical release and watching the mother and baby just swim off and hopefully thrive," said volunteer Larry Schoenberg.
With one final look back from baby Lad, a symbolic nod to all the volunteers, he and Joannie disappeared into the distance, beginning a new life back in Jacksonville.
Joannie has been fitted with a GPS tracking device so marine biologists can monitor her whereabouts. By the end of the week, you will be able to track Joannie on the manatee rehabilitation partnership website