After close encounter with scarred manatee, Savannah woman inspired to help protect species

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A Savannah woman wants people to be more cautious of manatees while on boats after having a close encounter with one.

Lisa Vickery says she was fishing at the Lazaretto Creek at the end of June when she noticed something huge come up to the dock.

When she realized it as a manatee, she whipped out her phone and started a Facebook Live.

More surprising than the interaction in general were the scars she saw all over the animal’s back and abdomen.

“It really impacted me,” said Vickery. “I really feel like it was a very special moment that was maybe designed just for me to have so that, you know, something could be done about it.”

Learning about the ‘gentle giants’

That night, Vickery called Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and spoke with wildlife biologist Clay George.

She says George believes they had not yet tracked that animal and that the scars she saw were caused by boating accidents.

WSAV.com NOW also spoke with George about the encounter.

“It’s not abnormal for manatees to come up to other people,” said George. “It is really common, unfortunately, for manatees to get hit by boats.”

Manatees are typically found off the coast of Florida but many more have begun to migrate to warm waters off the coast of Georgia. The massive animals can usually be found along the sides of marshes and by docks.

In her videos, Vickery did touch the manatee, however, George says people should not feed or touch the animals since they’re on the threatened species list.

If you see an injured manatee, call Georgia DNR at 1-800-2 SAVE ME.

A candle for a good cause

Vickery admits she didn’t know much about them, but she knew she needed to do something to raise awareness about them after her encounter.

She decided to sell homemade candles and donate $10 from each sale to a wildlife charity that works to protect manatees.

“I want people to fall in love with manatees,” she said. “I fell in love with that manatee that day. Honestly, it just really touched my heart.”

After hearing about her experience and seeing some of her videos, Savannah native Tara O’Sullivan knew she needed to step in and help.

“I’m born and raised here in Savannah so it’s very important that we keep Savannah in its natural state as much as we can,” said O’Sullivan. “Especially with the coastline and all the animals.”

Vickery is selling these homemade candles and is donating $10 from each candle to a wildlife organization.

O’Sullivan is the general manager at the Grand Lake Club at Southbridge. She is going to use the clubhouse as a pick-up point for people who ordered a candle.

“We’re also running a new membership promotion,” said O’Sullivan. “The initiation fee is typically $400. We’re going to offer anyone that is purchasing her candles or is giving any sort of donations to this program, we’re going to decrease the initiation to $99.”

Vickery said she just wants people to use caution while out in the water so no one else hurts these “gentle giants”.

“Having that one-on-one experience was such a beautiful experience,” she said. “I want other people like me who aren’t aware [about manatees] to become aware.”

To order a candle from Vickery, email her at bloomandgrowmarket@gmail.com.

You can also check out her Facebook page and find her on Etsy at SavannahBG.

Vickery has also set up a GoFundMe where you can donate funds.

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