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Manatee released after 2 years of rehab | News

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Manatee released after 2 years of rehab
News, Urban Wildlife
Manatee released after 2 years of rehab

Tampa, Florida -- Two and a half years ago, manatee 'Laroc' barely tipped the scales at 70 pounds when she was discovered abandoned, weak and dehydrated in the Caloosahatchee River near Cape Coral.

No one knows what happened to the newborn calf's mother, but it was clear she would not survive much longer on her own.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission brought the young calf to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, home of the world's only non-profit manatee hospital, where the little one got her second chance at life.

"We began the process of hand rearing her... starting with Pedialyte formula and moving through milk supplements until she was able to nutritionally sustain herself on a natural diet," said zookeeper, Jennifer Galbraith.

Laroc made significant progress and put on significant weight. She's grown from 63 pounds to more than 750 pounds today.

On Monday, the day zookeepers have been working toward finally arrived: Laroc is ready to be released back into her natural habitat.

She is being released in Homossassa Springs, an area that has a high success rate for rehabbed manatees.

"It'll be chock full of other manatees to show her where to go for food and warm water," said Galbraith.

Laroc is the 174th manatee rehabbed and released by Lowry Park Zoo. She also happens to be the smallest they've ever rehabilitated and released.

"It's just an amazing feeling to know you've set something right that was interrupted, the natural process is continuing on," smiled Galbraith.

Laroc will be monitored during the first six to 12 months she is out on her own. After that, her monitor tag will be removed.

Galbraith and the other zookeepers here hope they never see her again... and that's a good thing. If she runs into trouble, they will bring her back to Lowry Park Zoo to continue her rehab.

Laroc got her name based on where she was found -- it's backwards for Coral -- since she was found near Cape Coral. There are nine other manatees in rehab at the manatee hospital right now. The Zoo as so far taken in more than 300 manatees.

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