Once-orphaned manatee found starving near Indian River power plant, rescued for second time

TITUSVILLE, Fla. — For the second time in the last five years, the same manatee has been rescued from dire straits.

Officials said Matthew the manatee was found on Sept. 23 suffering from “nutritional deficiency” near a power plant on the Indian River.

WATCH: ‘A possibility of extinction’: Manatees dying at unprecedented rate in Florida

Crews with the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership and the Orlando Utilities Commission corralled Matthew in a net before moving him to SeaWorld Orlando for treatment.

Officials said Matthew had lost a significant amount of weight, likely due to low levels of seagrass in parts of the river.

Seagrass is the primary source of a manatee’s diet while in the Indian River, but pesticide runoff and light-blocking algae blooms are threatening the aquatic plant’s sustainability, officials said.

WATCH: Volusia County looking to use technology to help Indian River Lagoon survive

Rescuers said after spending time regaining his health at SeaWorld, Matthew will be returned to his natural environment, but not likely to the Indian River due to the seagrass depletion.

They are planning to release Matthew at Blue Springs State Park in Volusia County.

WATCH: Lawmakers tour Indian River Lagoon surveying issues contributing to increased manatee deaths

Officials said Matthew was first rescued in 2016 as an orphaned calf and was released with a tracking device on March 2, 2020 near the Cape Canaveral Energy Center.

The Indian River power plant’s protected canals act as a calm-water refuge for manatees, officials said.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, and click here to watch the latest news on your Smart TV.