The injured manatee rescued in a Boynton Beach canal Thursday is pregnant, and veterinarians want to quickly nurse her back to health so she can give birth in the wild.
The 1,500-pound mammal is recuperating at Miami Seaquarium in Key Biscayne, in a critical care pool alongside four other manatees that included Peppermint, which was rescued in Boca Raton last month.
The Boynton Beach manatee is far along in her 13-month gestation period, between 9 and 11 months pregnant, said Dr. Maya Rodriguez, a critical-care manatee veterinarian treating her. An ultrasound taken at the Seaquarium, one of Florida's three manatee critical-care facilities, confirmed the pregnancy.
The manatee is a young adult about 10-15 years old and could be a first-time mom, Rodriguez said. If she's too close to term, the Seaquarium staff will make sure she has her calf in captivity. Having the company of other manatees could help the social creature's rehabilitation, she said.
"It's hard to tell how the baby made it through the trauma," said John Cassady, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manatee biologist who led Thursday's rescue. "We're hopeful for her condition."
It took more than a dozen officers and biologists, with help from Boynton Beach police and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office marine units, to save the manatee.
The manatee sustained two propeller gashes that appeared infected and were about a week old, authorities said. She also had scars from past injuries from a prior boating incident.
It was the boat's momentum that caused internal injuries, and the propeller blades that caused the gashes, Rodriguez said.
The 10-foot-long mammal has internal bleeding, inflammation, possibly an infection and a punctured lung. She is being treated with antibiotics and hasn't been eating the lettuce, sweet potatoes, apples and bananas inside her pool. But she has been drinking water.
Not eating for a few days is normal given the stress, Rodriguez said.
No tests have been run on the calf, but it is alive and could be battling the same infection as its mother, Rodriguez said.
"Normally, the calves are better protected than their mothers. The abdomen is pretty well protected," she said.
Still, veterinarians are monitoring the sea cow because the inflammation can cause premature contractions, Rodriguez said. The critical-care and pre-release pools at the Seaquarium are not open to the public and currently house a total of 13 recovering manatees.
According to FWC, manatee calves weigh around 66 pounds, are 4 feet long and remain with their mothers for up to 2 1/2 years. Manatees reach sexual maturity at 4-7 years-old.
FWC patrol units found the injured manatee in a quiet cove at Boynton Beach's Boat Club Park, just off the Intracoastal, showing signs of distress such as elevated respiratory rates and a list to one side. Her buoyancy has since improved while at the Seaquarium.
FWC biologists and Miami Seaquarium vets are debating what to name the manatee mom-to-be and are showing a preference for "Celebrity" or "Celeboyti" — to recognize the place she was found.
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