ORLANDO, Fla. (CBS) — A pregnant Manatee pulled from Cape Cod waters too cold for her survival is safe in Florida after being flown there by the Coast Guard.
The complex rescue effort and 13-hour flight brought her from the Mystic Aquarium in Groton, Connecticut to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida Tuesday.
CBS This Morning reported Wednesday that Washburn, as the 800-pound manatee is known, is chomping on romaine lettuce in a private rehab tank.
They said she was brought there by a police-escorted procession.
Washburn was rescued off the coast of East Falmouth September 22. The manatee is native to much warmer waters, like those off the Florida coasts–though sightings of the creatures off Cape Cod have increased in recent years.
While Washburn was at the Mystic Aquarium, conservationists realized she was pregnant.
“It’s not only one manatee, but it’s two,” Mystic Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Jen Flower told CBS This Morning’s David Begnaud. “So the stakes were pretty high.”
That’s why they approved the rescue flight to Florida.
SeaWorld veterinarian Dr. Lara Croft was with Washburn on the Coast Guard flight, and said saving one of the creatures is worth the effort.
“We did have one orphaned calf that was hand-reared, she returned to the wild and she gave birth to nine calfs,” she said. “And who knows how many calfs those calfs had. One manatee can have a huge effect on the population.”
Manatees like Washburn can weigh over 3,000 pounds on a diet that consists mainly of sea grass. They have been on the Endangered Species list in Florida for over 50 years.
Washburn would be the 18th manatee SeaWorld has released back into the wild.
The staff there want to wait until she gains about 400-500 more pounds before re-releasing her.