Manatee #5 is a male and was rescued from Orange River in February and rehabilitated at Lowry Park Zoo.
CAPE CORAL, Florida (AP) - Seven manatees rescued during a red tide bloom in southwest Florida were released Tuesday back into the wild, wildlife officials said.
The manatees were released in Cape Coral, according to a statement by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Sixteen manatees were rescued from the red tide bloom between last September and this April, wildlife officials said. All but one survived after they were they were initially taken to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo for treatment. Two rehabilitated manatees were released in June, and wildlife officials expect to release more manatees later this month.
"We are very pleased that so many of the manatees we rescued from the effects of red tide have recovered to reach this point," said Andy Garrett, an FWC biologist and Florida's manatee rescue coordinator. "Our staff and partners worked very hard during the red tide to get to distressed manatees in time."
Five of the seven manatees released Tuesday remained at the zoo for the duration of their rehabilitation. Earlier this year, the other two manatees were moved to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to ensure the zoo had space for critical care cases.
The Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership helps to coordinate the releases of rehabilitated manatees and monitors their health once back in the wild, authorities said.
Red tide is the primary cause of death for 272 manatees so far this year, according to the FWC statement. Manatees are exposed to toxins in the bloom that settled onto the sea grass that manatee eat, causing them to become paralyzed and eventually drown.
The public can report distressed or dead manatees by calling the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. Florida residents can also support manatee research and conservation by purchasing the Save the Manatee license plate, authorities said.
For more information on manatee conservation visit: MyFWC.com/Manatee.