Officials rescue manatee cow and calf in the Savannah River

Local News

PORT WENWORTH, Ga. (WSAV) – Officials at the Imperial Sugar Plant teamed up with conservation agencies and organizations to rescue a manatee cow and its’ calf from the Savannah River Friday, November 29th.

The cow manatee weighed in at 1,530 pounds and her male-calf weighed in at 425 pounds. Both were transported to SeaWorld in Orlando, FL and are in good condition.

You may be thinking, “How or why was there a manatee cow and its’ calf near the Savannah River?”

Manatees inhabit tidal rivers, estuaries and near-shore ocean waters throughout coastal Georgia during the warmer months. They typically migrate to Florida in fall as water temperatures cool.

According to the staff at Imperial Sugar, the manatees had been using the area around the plant’s warm water discharge into the river as refuge from cooling water temperatures that threatened their survival.

Scheduled maintenance at the plant would have temporarily disrupted the outflow of warm water over Thanksgiving, but Imperial Sugar was able to minimize the work and provide staff during the holiday to keep the warm water flowing until rescuers arrived.

“They went to extreme measures to continue to provide the warm water for these manatees until we could rescue them,” said Mark Dodd, a senior wildlife biologist with DNR.

Once they arrived at SeaWorld, the calf started nursing. The hope is to be able to release them both soon.

The rescue was challenging due to the low tide and deep mud. It involved the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Conservation Section (DNR), SeaWorld, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Savannah State University.

DNR and Fish and Wildlife Service coordinators are grateful for the team effort and the plant’s role.

“The service appreciates the many conservation partners from Georgia and Florida as well as Imperial Sugar plant staff that stepped up to do their part for this large female and her dependent male calf, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Terri Calleson, Florida manatee recovery coordinator with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

For more information on manatees and the population, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

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