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Gift puts sea cow clinic on display

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2000

TAMPA -- A major gift from a private citizen will allow the public to see what goes on behind the scenes at Lowry Park Zoo's manatee hospital.

Tampa banking executive David A. Straz Jr., who also sits on the board of directors of Tampa General Hospital, donated money to fund the construction of a boardwalk that will allow zoo visitors to see inside the hospital.

Straz's gift, the amount of which was not revealed, also will help pay some of the hospital's operating costs, which are more than $500,000 annually.

The manatee hospital has been renamed in Straz's honor.

Earlier this year, veterinarians at the manatee hospital managed to rehabilitate Iona, a pregnant female manatee who was seriously injured when she was hit by a boat. On May 18, she gave birth to Lowry, the first manatee calf born at the zoo. Both Iona and Lowry are expected to be released into the wild soon, zoo officials said.

In all, the zoo has treated 76 manatees in its hospital since the facility opened in 1991. According to recent statistics, the need for the hospital has never been greater. In 1999, 82 manatees were killed by boats in Florida, more than ever before, scientists said.

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