Found alone near Naples, the baby clings to life at Lowry Park Zoo.
By SHARI MISSMAN MILLER
Published May 15, 2003
[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
A newborn manatee named Buttonwood is monitored at Lowry Park Zoo after he was found beached near Naples on Wednesday. "It's like finding a baby in a Dumpster," said veterinarian David Murphy.
In the midday heat Wednesday along Buttonwood Bay, near Naples, two fishermen in a boat spotted a dark leathery form on the beach.
Drawing closer, they saw that it was a very small manatee, completely beached, with no other manatees nearby. They waited a few minutes to see if the mother would come back, then went for help.
The fishermen came upon some Rookery Bay water quality specialists, who called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Katie Edwards, a manatee biologist with the fish and wildlife service, was immediately dispatched and took the 1-day-old manatee to Lowry Park Zoo, which has a manatee hospital on its grounds.
The male newborn manatee, named Buttonwood by Lowry staff veterinarian David Murphy, was evaluated and placed in a baby pool of water at the manatee hospital.
Murphy said the manatee's condition was critical because he was apparently abandoned by its mother. "It's like finding a baby in a Dumpster," Murphy said.
Virginia Edmonds, assistant curator of Florida Mammals at Lowry, began monitoring the baby and making physical contact, which is necessary for nurturing abandoned mammals.
Buttonwood is the youngest manatee brought to Lowry for rehabilitation. The zoo currently has 12 manatees, its highest number since the program began, Edmonds said.
Murphy could not say what the prognosis is for Buttonwood. "He's in a very guarded condition," Murphy said. "Cross your fingers."
Buttonwood, underweight at 48 pounds, will get 24-hour care. Five people on the Lowry manatee staff will be on duty in four-hour shifts to monitor his condition.