Sea World Manatees

Location: Sea World - Orlando, Florida

Day 16
by Wayne Brown

Today we visited Sea World in Orlando, near Disney World. We have already taken you to three places where people are trying to protect and care for manatees. On Day 6 and Day 1, we visited Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, and on Day 9, we visited The Living Seas, in EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World, and on Day 14, we visited Lowry Park Zoo. Of all these places only Lowry Park Zoo can take in manatees that need medical treatment for injuries or sicknesses.

There are only three places in all of Florida that are called primary care treatment centers. Primary care treatment centers are equipped to treat sick or injured manatees when they are rescued. These places can even do surgery on manatees to help them get better. Florida's three primary care treatment centers are the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, the Miami Seaquarium, and Sea World in Orlando. The largest manatee primary care center in Florida (largest in the world, too!) is Sea World in Orlando.

It took us about 2 hours to drive from our base at Crystal River to Sea World. Our visit to Sea World was arranged by Dan O'Dell, Ph.D. Dr. O'Dell got his degree from the University of California, at Los Angeles (UCLA). He studied sea lions and sea elephants on San Nicholas Island. Some of you already know about this island if you read the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins. San Nicholas island is the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Dr. O'Dell told us he discovered some old Indian cave paintings in a sea cave, just like Karana did in the book!

Dr. O'Dell has been working with manatees for over 20 years. Dr. O'Dell wrote the best manatee book of all, called Manatees and Dugongs. (We got Dr. O'Dell to autograph our copy of his book. Look for information on the book by clicking on "Expedition Library".)

Dr. O'Dell first took us to see the manatee rehabilitation center. This is a large area behind the public viewing areas that is used for the research and rehabilitation of rescued manatees. There are 3 manatee treatment pools with their own life support systems. Like Lowry Park Zoo, Sea World also separates the boys from the girl manatees.

Part of this center includes an emergency treatment clinic to treat injured manatees. The treatment clinic is off-limits to the public, but you can go on a special tour called "the manatee rescue tour". This tour takes you to the rehabilitation center to see the rescued manatees that are here in the rehabilitation pools. If you're lucky you may be able to see a baby manatee, like we did. His name is Pistachio, and he is only about 3 months old.

Sea World has one really cool manatee treatment pool. When manatees are treated or checked, they have to be taken out of the water. At Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, they take a manatee out of the water using strong slings, like straps for seat belts in your parents' car. The straps go under the manatee. The straps are connected to poles and people pick up the poles to lift the manatee out of the water. At Lowry Park Zoo we showed you a picture of a crane that is used to lift the sling out of the water. At Sea World when it is time to check a manatee the manatee is lead into a special treatment tank that has a special floor that moves up and down. When the manatee is in the treatment tank the floor slowly lifts up, out of the water. After the manatee is checked, the floor sinks back under water and the manatee swims away.

Sea World had 5 manatees in their treatment and care center today, but they can take care of as many manatees as they need to. Dr O'Dell told us that usually about 20-25 manatees need to be rescued each year. One of the manatees in the treatment pool was named Snorkel. He got his name because when he was rescued he wouldn't eat so they put a special plastic feeding tube into his stomach through his mouth. People thought it looked like a skin diving snorkel, so they named him "Snorkel". Snorkel is now eating on his own. In fact, the whole time we were there it seemed like all he was doing was eating the romain lettuce that his caretakers had put in his tank. It looked like Snorkel was covered up with a blanket. The "blanket" was actually made of out scuba diving wet suit material. The material was wrapped around Snorkel to help him float. When Snorkel was rescued he had a puntured lung, from being hit by a speeding boat. Manatees need their big lungs to help them float. With one lung damaged he had trouble coming to the surface to breathe. The "wet suit" Snorkel wears now gives him the extra buoyancy he needs to breathe at the surface.

After visiting the manatee rehabilitation center and seeing all the manatees there Dr. O'Dell took us to see the manatee habitat where the public can see manatees. Sea World has the biggest and best manatee habitat anywhere. If you go to Florida in the summer you won't be able to swim with manatees, but you can still see them. The best place to see manatees in their natural habitat is Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. If you can't get your parents to take you all the way over there, the best place to see manatees in a simulated natural habitat is at Sea World.

Sea World's manatee exhibit is called, "Manatees: The Last Generation?". You first walk into a big room with a huge movie screen. You watch a cool movie, about 5 minutes long, that talks about manatees and how they are endangered. After the movie you go into a big underwater viewing area, with one big, thick, curved window that is about 10 feet high and 60 feet long! There were 6 manatees here to see. There were also cool interactive displays that would do things when you touched them. After this you walk up a ramp to go above ground and see the manatees by looking into the water from above.

After showing us all around, Dr. O'Dell had to get back to work. We thanked him for his time and went to explore the park.

Sea World in Orlando is like Sea World in San Diego, but this Sea World is bigger and fancier, with more things to see and do. There is also a really fun ride here that Sea World in San Diego doesn't have, called "Journey to Atlantis". I knew you guys would want to know about the ride so I went on it for you. (Karen refused to go, since she is scared of roller coasters.) Someone loaned me a poncho to wear, because on this ride you will get soaked! Fortunately on my boat I had two junior high girls in the seat in front of me and they warned me when to duck, to keep from getting too wet. The ride is part water ride and part roller coaster. The biggest drop is usually where you get the wettest, but there are lots of other places where you get wet, too. After the big drop I was happy I had on my poncho, because I didn't get very wet, but all of a sudden it was like I was getting rained on. I discovered that along the sidewalks there are water cannons that kids can use to squirt people has their boats go by!

We learned a lot about manatees today from Dr. O'Dell. He told us that boat propeller guards do help protect manatees, but the biggest danger to manatees is not from boat propellers, but from boat themselves. He told us "speed kills"! Speeding boats can seriously injure or kill manatees. Right now people are trying to make a law that a boat speeding ticket will go on a person's driver's license. Too many tickets and that person could lose their driver's license!

There are laws that help protect manatees, but how do we make sure people obey the laws? Tomorrow will visit the people who enforce the laws that help protect manatees. Join us as spend a day with the "water police". These are the police officers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whose job it is to make sure people obey the laws so manatees will continue to survive for kids in the future to see them, too.


This is the manatee rehabilitation area at Sea World. There are three fresh water holding pools for rescued manatees. The two big circular pools in front and one oval pool in the back, with the white canopy over it. (The pool on the left with the canopy is the treatment pool with the moving floor.) The three short, fat gray tanks to the right are part of the water filters that keep the water clean.

Dr. O'Dell is showing Karen, Snorkel the manatee. (The green cover is a special wet suit and wraps around Snorkel to help him float.) This is the pool with the special floor that moves up and down.

This is the Journey to Atlantis ride. The boat is just about to splash into the water.

Time: 10:00 AM
Magellan GPS Location:
28º 53 minutes 92 seconds North latitude
82º 35 min. 69 sec. West longitude

Distance from Crystal River:
76.2 miles

Morning Air Temp: 44ºF

Afternoon Air Temp: 61ºF

Weather: Cold, clear and sunny.

Total manatees seen so far: 76

Total mermaids seen so far: 6

Distance Traveled by Kayak so Far:
14 miles

Digital Photos
(Above water):
Digital Photos

Film Photos
(Above water):

Film Photos

Rolls of film shot
(36 exposures):
44 rolls


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