ZooTampa joins forces with Puerto Rico conservation center to rescue manatee

TAMPA, Fla. — When a manatee cried for help, ZooTampa answered the call.


Molly Lippincott, the curator of Florida and Manatees at ZooTampa, used her expertise to successfully help Nanichi, a 2-month-old calf at the Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center, take a bottle.

The team in Puerto Rico named the manatee Nanichi, which means “my love or my heart,” from the original Taino language of the Greater Antilles.

She had been rescued on the shores of Santa Isabel when she was about a week old. Now, the manatee is in a period of rehabilitation and will eventually be released back into the wild.

Read: SeaWorld releases rehabilitated manatee back into the wild

“We are happy to extend our expertise to our neighbors in Puerto Rico and like many of their residents, we are rooting for Nanichi,” said Tiffany Burns, director of conservation at ZooTampa. “Manatees are an incredibly resilient species facing many obstacles.”

Burns said the only way they can help the manatee population survive is to collaborate within the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. ZooTampa is only one of two critical care centers in the United States for orphaned calves.

Read: Gov. DeSantis pledges $30 million to help save Florida manatees

“Our Center is grateful to ZooTampa and its manatee care personnel for sharing with us the challenges and solutions in nursing manatee calves back to health,” said Antonio Mignucci, director of the Center and marine sciences professor at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.

The Center at the Inter American University currently has five manatee patients, including one long-term care Florida manatee from ZooTampa.

“Caring for Guacara, the Florida manatee, since 2010 aligned us with ZooTampa, and now with the help they offered with Nanichi, the Zoo and the Center solidified what the partnership is about, the caring for and saving threatened species like the manatee,” Mignucci said.

Read: ‘Yago’ the manatee returned to the wild after being rescued in February

Lippincott said ZooTampa is grateful to be a part of the conservation effort with their dedicated colleagues in Puerto Rico.

“They are a small facility, but with a mighty team that does amazing work with the conservation of manatees, birds and sea turtles,” she said. “Not only in Puerto Rico but throughout the Caribbean.”

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