Orange County

SeaWorld to build new emergency pools in response to a spike in manatee injuries

ORLANDO, Fla. — The SeaWorld theme park in Orlando is opening new pools to care for Florida manatees that are dying from starvation due to poor water quality in their normal habitat.

The lovable, round-tailed marine mammals had their worst die-off last year, more than 1,100 of them, and there are federal and state efforts ongoing to save the threatened creatures.

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One of these efforts is to have a place like SeaWorld, with the marine assets it has, provide rehabilitation to those that can be rescued.

SeaWorld announced Friday that it has added five 40-foot pools to accommodate up to 20 manatees within two weeks.

The theme park is one of five facilities in the U.S. taking care of sick and injured manatees. It had 28 manatees in its care as of Friday, according to a company release.

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“We are bringing animals in that are skeletons. These animals need long-term care,” said Jon Peterson, chief of zoological operations at SeaWorld who chairs a manatee rescue partnership with government agencies.

“We’ve got the space. We will continue to use that space,” he added.

Manatees on the east coast of Florida, in particular, have suffered during winter months from a lack of food.

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They are large creatures that feed on sea grass, and poor water quality has reduced their natural food source, causing many to starve to death.

It’s mostly agricultural, urban and septic tank sources of pollution that are depriving them of food.

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