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$30-Million to Protect Manatees and Their Habitats

Manattee Zoo.jpg
Photo courtesy Jacksonville Zoo Manatee Rehabilitation Center
$20 million will help enhance and expand the network of manatee acute care facilities.

Jacksonville - Monday May 2, 2022: More than $30-million dollars has been included in the state budget to protect manatees and their habitats. During a news conference Monday morning at the Jacksonville Zoo’s Manatee Rehabilitation Center the Governor DeSantis and conservation officials spoke about the importance of the funding to the state's environment and economy.

The $30 million is a “record" amount of funding for appropriation for manatee care and habitat rehabilitation said the Governor. “In fact it’s an increase of over $17-million dollars. It will enhance and expand the network of acute care facilities, like the one right here at the Jacksonville Zoo to treat injured and distressed manatees," he said.

Last year the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded 1,101 manatee deaths in Florida waters. Through April 22 of this year there have been 527 deaths, 167 fewer deaths over the same period last year. “We received our first 2 patients back in August of 2017 and just two weeks ago released our 30th manatee from the center," said Craig Miller, the curator of mammals at the Jacksonville Zoo. "The last 17 months have certainly been tough for manatees and the busiest we’ve ever been at our facility.”

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton emphasized that the funding is critical to maintaining the health of the environment, and the Florida economy. “Florida’s water is fundamental to our way of life. Our springs, river systems and estuaries like the Indian River Lagoon are home to manatees who rely on the health of these waters to live.”

The $30-million for manatee care and habitat rehabilitation includes:

• $20 million to enhance and expand the network of manatee acute care facilities, restore access to springs, provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas, expand manatee rescue and recovery efforts, and implement pilot projects like the supplemental feeding trials that took place this past winter.

• $5.3 million to expand Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manatee mortality and response efforts, including 12 new positions.

• $160,000 to support increased aerial surveys.

• $4.7 million in base funding to support manatee acute care facilities and research, rescue, and conservation activities.