Floridians Come to the Rescue of Manatees Beached by Hurricane Irma
Lifestyle| | By Robin Milling
As Hurricane Irma whipped through Florida’s west coast, the nearly 400-mile-wide storm drained water from the state’s shores around Tampa Bay the morning of September 10, even though the storm was 200 miles away. Not only were residents left concerned and stunned by the devastation – several helpless manatees were beached by the sudden water loss – that is until several Floridians came to their rescue who happened to be listlessly wandering the bay.
Michael Sechler of Sarasota – a State College of Florida graduate whose mascot is the manatee – first spotted them with his friends but they were unable to budge the hefty mammals.
“Believe me, we tried to move them. But between [the manatees] weighing over 500 lbs. and being stranded in almost mud-like sand, we couldn’t make it happen,” he told Fox 13 News.
They tried contacting local law enforcement in search of help, but due to the storm their calls went unanswered.
“#Irma has started here in Florida. Went out to the bay and saw two objects out where the water receded, so we took off our shoes and walked out through the shells to find two beached manatees. One wasn’t moving, the other was breathing and had water in its eyes. My friends and I couldn’t move these massive animals ourselves, and we called every service we could think of, but no one answered. We gave them as much water as we could, hoping the rain and storm surge come (sic) soon enough to save them,” Sechler wrote on Facebook.
Lucky for the manatees, Marcelo Clavijo, living in Indialantic, Florida was feeling “stir crazy” so he walked to the bay with friends. It was there he spotted the stranded sea cows and went for the impromptu rescue – heading into the mud to try and carry them to deeper waters – by rolling them onto a green tarp they had in the back of one of their trucks.
Clavijo described the scene on Facebook.
“Getting a lil (sic) stir crazy so we went for a ride and went to check the bay at the end of Whitfield the tide was sucking the bay dry which stranded 2 manatees on the flats so we went for a ride and ended up saving 2 manatees with a hand full of people and 2 of manatees finest that were knee deep in mud right next to us it was a pretty cool experience, we rolled them on the tarp and then dragged them a 100 yrds it was crazy, now back to reality of a hurricane coming #manateelivesmatter,” he wrote.
Law enforcement joined the rescue effort and with a simple count of ‘1-2-3‘ the manatees were pulled back to the channel where they swam off back into the bay.
Clavijo posted a video of the rescued manatees which went viral receiving over six million views.
Posted by Marcelo Clavijo on Sunday, September 10, 2017
A concerted effort is underway to rescue, rehabilitate, release, and monitor sick and injured manatees.