JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After a record year of manatee deaths in Florida, the Jacksonville Zoo will be building a critical care center for the mammals. Zookeepers say the facility will help save manatee lives.
Manatee deaths are on the rise in Florida coming off of a record year in 2013. The Jacksonville Zoo is on a mission to help save manatees found in our area.
"No.1 is being able to help these animals, animals that are already in bad condition that need rescue," said Craig Miller of the Jacksonville Zoo.
Miller said the new critical care facility will include three tanks for rehab and care.
Once built, the new facility will only be the fourth rescue facility in the state for manatee.
Bridgett White said she would love to bring her daughter to see them.
"I think it'll be great for Florida to show the children that there's a problem and to appreciate them," said White.
When manatees are rescued in our area they're currently taken to a facility in Tampa or Seaworld in Orlando.
Miller said the two or three hour ride for the mammal can be deadly.
"Getting animals in here as quick as possible, getting them receiving care as quick as possible, can be the difference between life and death," said Miller.
Florida wildlife experts report more than 800 manatees died and about 30 of them were in our area.
The new facility is expected to cost about $1.5 million, and taxpayers won't have to foot the bill. Miller said the money will come from donations and fundraising.
White said it's needed to save such precious mammals.
"I think it would definitely make it worth it, worth the while, the money and it'll be great awareness for children and families to realize what's going on out there," said White.
The zoo hopes to open the new facility next year and are still trying to determine a ground breaking date.
The facility is expected to hold between five-nine manatee.