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    Biologists: Have you seen this manatee?

    The adult male lost his satellite tracking tag, but should still have a lime-green flag with a black square on it.

    By PATRICK COOPER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001


    ST. PETERSBURG -- Wanted: One manatee.

    Nipper the manatee lost his satellite tracking tag in early January, a biologist with the Florida Marine Research Institute said Friday, and now researchers are trying to track him down.

    The animal was tagged in December as part of a project to gain a more accurate count of the manatees in waters near the Apollo Beach TECO Energy plant, Holly Edwards said. But the tag fell off and Nipper swam away.

    Nipper looks like your average Joe Manatee. He is a typically large, gray adult, Edwards said. He should, however, be wearing a lime-green flag with a black square on it. Edwards and another biologist were searching for Nipper for most of Friday.

    Nipper's lost $4,000 satellite tag has been found, but without the tag on the manatee, biologists are unable to find him and a data recorder still strapped to him.

    Because of the warm weather, Nipper left the TECO area for unknown waters. Biologists searched for him in the Alafia and Little Manatee rivers this week.

    Edwards said she does not want people to try to capture the manatee. "We just want them to tell us if they see him," she said. The institute is able to locate data recorders like the one Nipper is still wearing, but only from close range, she said.

    Getting the recorder back would greatly help the institute's research. "It's worth it to us because of the data," she said.

    If people spot the manatee, they should call Edwards or biologist Beth Wright at (727) 896-8626.

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