JACKSONVILLE Fla.-- Some of Jacksonville's smallest are helping save some of Jacksonville's largest. The students of Montessori Elementary; witnessing the release of a mama manatee and her calf was a rare opportunity.
"I thought, 'whoa, that's really big'," said fourth-grader Morgan Farrin.
In return, they're helping to create a rare opportunity for someone else. They're fundraising to create a critical care center for manatees at the Jacksonville Zoo.
"We are selling chocolate and coffee," said Farrin.
The manatees released Tuesday were rescued in the River City, but had to be transported all the way to Tampa for rehab. A local care center would save more manatees and more money.
"We are talking about an animal that is so endangered there may be only 5,000 or in that range in this part of the country," said Dan Maloney, Jacksonville Zoo Director of Conservation. "So if we can help reduce that stress on the animals take care of them here, rehab them ,and then return them, boy that saves a lot of effort and puts a lot less stress on the animals."
The students' efforts will help the zoo meet its $1.5 million target to open the critical care center.
"Seeing the animal makes it feel more real," said Farrin.
If the zoo is able to raise enough money to open the center, it will become the fourth one of its kind in Florida, putting Jacksonville on the map in marine care.
To donate, contact the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.