2021 is already the deadliest year on record for Florida manatees. Scientists and activists are scrambling to avert further disaster
On a bright morning in July, a crowd gathered on a boat ramp in St Augustine, Florida, awaiting the arrival of a young male manatee named Gerard. The marshy Matanzas River gently flowed around oyster beds and sawgrass islands as biologists organized their equipment. Nearby about a dozen onlookers paced by the shore, waiting to catch a glimpse of Gerard’s return to the wild following weeks of captivity.
Earlier in spring, beachgoers discovered Gerard stranded and sunbaked in Palm Coast, about 25 miles south of St Augustine, on the Atlantic Ocean. Samaritans draped wet towels over the feeble marine mammal, keeping him cool and shaded from the subtropical sun, as a rescue team raced to the scene. Gravely thin, Gerard was transported to Jacksonville Zoo, where he spent the next 10 weeks in critical care until he was plump enough to re-enter the wild.