MIAMI - A manatee orphan named Junebug was released back into Florida waters Thursday after undergoing years of rehabilitation at Miami Seaquarium and at the Columbus Zoo.
According to a news release, Junebug arrived at Miami Seaquarium on June 19, 2015, as a neonatal orphan, weighing 70 pounds and measuring 3.5 feet long.
Junebug was rescued from Outer Clam Bay in Naples by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers.
She was taken to Miami Seaquarium, where staff members bottle-fed her a special formula for more than year.
Junebug was transferred to Columbus Zoo on Nov. 15, 2016, for the second phase of her rehabilitation.
At the zoo, the manatee was provided with the special care and diet needed to help her reach an appropriate weight and ensure healthy growth and development.
Junebug was transferred back to the Miami Seaquarium on Oct. 10, 2017, for the final phase of her rehabilitation.
She now weighs more than 800 pounds.
"Rescued neonatal orphan manatees are the most challenging difficult manatees to be released back to the wild because they are so naive to the wild environment," said Dr. Maya Rodriguez, a veterinarian at Miami Seaquarium. "Last year, there were 116 neonatal orphan manatee deaths out of the total manatee mortality count of 538. We will cheer her on as she is released on the West Coast of Florida at a whopping 800 pounds."
Junebug was released Thursday at Teco Power Plant in Tampa. She was fitted with a satellite tag and will be monitored for a year as part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership.
Click here to monitor Junebug's progress.
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