Rehabilitated manatee is released

TAMPA, Florida – Peace Pec was named for the place and manner of his injury.

The 4- to 5-year-old manatee was found struggling in the mouth of the Peace River in July, tangled in a crab-trap line.

The entanglement cut off circulation to his left pectoral fin, and to save him veterinarians had to amputate.

After 10 months of recovery in Lowry Park Zoo’s David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Hospital tanks, the 835-pound sea cow was snared in a sling, put aboard a box truck Thursday afternoon and hauled off to the place his troubles began, Charlotte County.

Deirdre Semeyn, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, drove the truck Thursday and said the release went off pretty much without a hitch.

She said schoolchildren from Charlotte County were there to watch.

Peace Pec was let loose at the Harbor Heights boat ramp, a secluded part of the Peace River.

Peace Pec “just kind of went out straight into the river,” and then he was gone, she said.

Peace Pec’s departure means the zoo no longer is treating a record number of injured or sick manatees, at least for now. There were 15. One of them is Fourby, which was rescued in the Cayman Islands.

The release was bittersweet for veterinarians and caretakers at the zoo. They were sorry to see him go, but happy they could make him well.

A team of park workers, veterinarians and a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helped corral the manatee at the zoo and muscled him into a truck that immediately headed south. Injured manatees ideally are released where they were rescued, zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said. There, they are familiar with the terrain.

Peace Pec is expected to thrive in the wild, Nelson said.

Just before 10am, the manatee was easily snared. The procedure was made easier by a movable wooden floor that is winched up, which leaves the manatee with less room to thrash.

Once in the truck, he got a little unruly, rolling around and rocking the truck side to side. A team calmed him and he settled down once the truck began moving.

Virginia Edmonds, assistant curator of Florida mammals at the zoo, was happy to see another patient returned to the wild.

She said the zoo has rehabilitated and released about 200 manatees.