Manatee Illusion
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Rescued Manatee to be Released Back to the Wild

Illusion, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s 978-pound Florida manatee is heading home soon.  After arriving at the Cincinnati Zoo one year ago, Illusion will return to the wild on November 9 as part of the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. Visitors can see Illusion at the Zoo’s Otto M. Budig Family Foundation Manatee Springs exhibit until Tuesday, November 8.  At this time, there is no scheduled release date for Illusion’s roommates, Wooten and Betsy.

The USFWS recently deemed Illusion releasable, after nearly a year at the Cincinnati Zoo, as her wounds have fully healed.  She was brought to the Cincinnati Zoo by Miami Seaquarium after she was struck by a boat propeller in Palm Beach County, at Riviera Beach on March 5, 2010.  The propeller fractured her ribs and vertebrae and went through the caudal part of her body, making months of rehabilitation necessary before she could safely return to the wild and survive.  

Illusion is the 8th manatee the Cincinnati Zoo has rehabbed and released back to the wild.  The Cincinnati Zoo is one of only two facilities outside of Florida to participate in the USFWS’ Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program.  This Program began in 1973 with the mission of rescuing and rehabilitating distressed and injured Florida manatees.  The fundamental purpose of the program is to release these rehabilitated manatees back into their wild habitat.  For recent updates on former Cincinnati Zoo manatees that have been released, visit the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership website.

“Illusion is the perfect example of why facilities like the Cincinnati Zoo are so important for the long-term management and care of these amazing animals,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo.  “Without rescue, rehabilitation and release programs for manatees, animals like Illusion would die in the wild from preventable wounds, often caused by man. Seeing her released back into the wild is yet another major accomplishment for conservationists around the world.”

Manatees can live up to 60 years of age. However, human activities throughout the years have accounted for about one-third of the known manatee deaths each year with watercraft collisions comprising the greatest human-related threat. Most adult manatees bear permanent scars from watercraft propeller strikes.  In January of 2010, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) reported a preliminary count of 5,076 manatees statewide. This aerial survey is the highest population count since surveys began in 1991. Unfortunately, the number of known mortalities continues to increase.

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