Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Zoo to Build Manatee Critical-Care Center; New Center to Aid Endangered Mammals Will Be Fourth in State

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Zoo to Build Manatee Critical-Care Center; New Center to Aid Endangered Mammals Will Be Fourth in State

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel

Good news for Northeast Florida's manatees: The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens plans to build a critical-care center designed just for the endangered aquatic mammals.

After the worst year on record for manatees, that's an important development, said Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatees.

"We're very excited about it," she said. "It's filling a major gap."

The center will be just the fourth in the state, and will save sick manatees - and their human rescuers - a long trip to SeaWorld in Orlando or even further to the zoo in Tampa.

That's not just a matter of convenience. Instead it could mean the difference between life or death, said Dan Maloney, deputy director of conservation and education at the zoo,

"If you have an animal that's already compromised, pulled out of the water, asked to sit in a truck, a truck that's going to be sitting in traffic, and you have to get that animal to a place where, at best, it's going to be three hours until it's back in the water - that's rough."

Maloney said the zoo hopes to open its care center for manatees late this year or early next year. The $1.5 million project is part of the zoo's capital improvements tied in with its 100th anniversary, alongside a new, $9.5 million Land of the Tigers exhibit.

The manatee care center, however, won't be a regular exhibit for zoo visitors, though an occasional group or school field trip could get a peek inside.

"It's a fairly modest facility. It's functional. It's not designed as a public display," he said.

It will have pools for the manatees with floors that can be raised or lowered for treatment. Most of the costs are for a life-support system that will keep the water filtered, treated and heated - manatees in a confined space can be pretty messy.

The zoo already has a response team for manatee rescues, made up of a core group of about 25 people from various departments at the zoo. …

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