Orphaned baby manatee found with plastic bags in stomach

Credit: WFLA -- The 66-pound calf has been nicknamed “Emoji”. Lowry Park Zoo photo
Credit: WFLA -- The 66-pound calf has been nicknamed “Emoji”. Lowry Park Zoo photo

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A sick, 2-week-old baby manatee is getting a new start at life at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo after the calf was found orphaned with debris and plastic bags in his stomach.

The 66-pound calf has been nicknamed “Emoji” in honor of the zoo’s recent petition to Unicode asking for the creation of the first-ever manatee emoji.

A zoo spokesperson said that Emoji was rescued from the Caloosahatchee River after being reported the previous day as an orphan calf by the public. He was transported to the Zoo by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Emoji was found with debris and plastic bags in his stomach. The zoo says that many orphaned calves also mistakenly ingest fishing line, fishing hooks and other pollutants while searching for food.

In the process of treating him, the zoo’s veterinary staff also discovered a very common health issue with manatees called Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC). Emoji was both clotting and bleeding at the same time.

More than six years of DIC research and discoveries made at the Zoo allowed the manatee care team to take a novel approach to stabilizing and improving his condition.

While doing better, Emoji may call the Zoo home for about two years before being released.

“We are so happy to be able to provide a temporary home for Emoji, here at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, as he would not have been able to survive in the wild on its own,” said Dr. Ray Ball, Director of Medical Sciences.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in a number of manatee rescues, rehabilitation and relocations. To date, Lowry Park Zoo has cared for more than 400 wild manatees, treating illness and injuries related to boat strikes, cold stress, entanglement and red tide exposure. Much of this care occurs on-site at the zoo’s David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Hospital, the only non-profit critical care hospital for manatees in the country.

The zoo encourages the public to sign and share the manatee emoji petition on Change.organd to stay tuned for additional ways they can support manatee conservation efforts.

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