• Rehabilitated manatee to be released from campus docks 

    Eckerd students helped FWC rescue the 900-pound male in March


    ST. PETERSBURG, FL (May 2, 2017) – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials will transport De Soto, a 900-pound male manatee, from Lowry Park Zoo to Eckerd College’s campus for his re-release at 11 a.m. May 9 at the Eckerd College Waterfront Complex, 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg.

    De Soto was rescued on March 17 near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge after fishermen called to report what they thought was a dead manatee stranded on a sand bar. Andy Garrett, a 1999 Eckerd College alumnus and manatee rescue coordinator for the FWC, said De Soto turned out to be much larger than reported, and the Eckerd College Search and Rescue (EC-SAR) team was called in to assist in the rescue.

    “He had elevated red tide toxin levels, which can cause seizures or paralysis in manatees,” Garrett said. “He was initially found in poor condition but he recuperated nicely after receiving care at Lowry Zoo”. 

    Officials took De Soto to Lowry Park Zoo for rehabilitation, and a microchip scan revealed the animal had been rescued once before as an orphan calf on Dec. 9, 2002. He had been reared at the zoo, radio tagged and released near the Apollo Beach power plant in 2004.

    FWC chose Frenchman’s Creek, which runs behind Eckerd’s campus, as the re-release point based on De Soto’s history.

    “We generally try to release animals near where they were found, because they have familiarity with the area,” Garrett said. “His case underscored the importance of calling FWC’s wildlife alert number, 1-888-404-FWCC to report dead, injured, or sick marine mammals”.

    Media interested in filming or photographing the release may contact Robbyn Mitchell Hopewell at hopewerm@eckerd.edu.