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Bock the Manatee
Manatees are wonderful, gentle creatures, often called sea cows, which inhabit the waters around Florida. If you are fortunate enough to visit Orlando in the winter season you can visit these lovely animals at Blue Springs, where they over-winter in the warm waters of the St John’s River.
A trip to this magnificent State Park provides a great day out, especially if you include a trip on one of the boats which take visitors along the river which is full of wildlife and birds.
Sadly, manatees are now endangered, and often sustain damage from the propellers of the many small boats which ply the warm waters around the coasts. However, marine mammal experts from Walt Disney World in Orlando work to rehabilitate these creatures, and one of their recent successes has been a manatee called ‘Bock. ’
It was in 2001 that ‘Bock’ was rescued as an orphan from the St John’s River, by the manatee rehabilitation programme, which is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. At the time he was around 125 centimetres long, and weighed just 66 lbs. He was taken to Seaworld, where he was bottle fed, and two years later he was relocated to Epcot where he was placed in The Seas with Nemo and Friends. At the time he weighed about 500 lbs. It was here that marine mammal experts were able to wean him from the bottle so that he could begin eating a diet of romaine lettuce, fruits and various vegetables. At the age of around eight years old he now weighs in at over 1, 000 lbs.
In February 2009 Bock was returned to the warm waters of the St John’s River at Blue Springs State Park, where manatees gather each year to escape the cold which could kill them. Manatees over-winter at Blue Springs because of its naturally warm waters, which bubble up from a spring. It is here that Bock will have the opportunity to learn appropriate behaviours when he swims with other manatees. It is hoped that he will then return each year to the warm waters of the spring when sea temperatures fall too low. He was one of five manatees released, which included Amber, Baby Coral, Rita and C. C. February is a good time to rehabilitate manatees as the temperatures are getting warmer, so there is less danger of them dying from cold stress. It is hoped that these manatees with join forces with the other wild manatees, so that they get used to living back in the wild.
Bock’s progress is constantly monitored by the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership, who fitted him with a satellite tracking belt so that they could follow his movements. This also helps them to observe his behaviour after his release. The MRP monitors the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees, and Disney’s Animal Programs has been involved with this group. Bock has been seen regularly swimming with Amber, and his progress is constantly monitored.
However, their work does not stop there as the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund contributes greatly to manatee research and awareness around the world. Indeed, since its inception it has contributed over $348, 000 for research and conservation in many countries such as Belize, Gabon and Guatemala.
It is good to know that Disney takes such rehabilitation programmes so seriously and that they are working to ensure that manatees do not die out. If you get the chance to see the manatees in their natural habitat then do so. You will have an amazing and relaxing day out.
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