'Leia' the manatee released in Fort Pierce

Posted at 7:31 PM, Nov 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-17 07:16:59-05

More than 100 people turned out at the Fort Pierce Boat Ramp to watch a manatee release.

It was a homecoming for "Leia" the manatee. She returned this afternoon to the Indian River Lagoon.

“It was a good feeling as human beings we're doing the right thing,” said Sandra Stein of Fort Pierce.

In March, "Leia" was found injured in the same area.

“Whe was hit most likely by the hull of a boat and she broke many ribs,” explained Jessica Schiffhauer, an animal care supervisor with the Miami Seaquarium. “She had a puss pocket so she was what we call a sinker, so it was hard for her to come up and take a breath.”

Schiffhauer and her team nursed "Leia" back to health.

“We feed them lots of lettuce and bananas and fruits and veggies and we also had a lot of medical care that we had to do with her,” explained Schiffhauer.

With lots of care, "Leia" became stronger and more like herself.

“When she started to get healthy she became very spunky she has a very strong personality and she's strong willed,” said Schiffhauer.

This afternoon, "Leia" arrived at the boat ramp in a refrigerated truck to keep her cool. Staff from Miami Seaquarium and Florida Fish and Wildlife prepared for her release.

“It's very bittersweet for us because we do care for them and they become part of our family at the Miami Seaquarium,” said Schiffhauer. “Our end goal is always to see them out in the wild. It's amazing when we're able to release them."

In a matter of seconds, staff and a cheering crowd wished "Leia" a safe return home.

The Miami Seaquarium hopes to release several more manatees by the end of the year.