APOLLO BEACH, Fla — A not-so-small aquatic friend was released back into the water after recovering from red tide exposure.
Leaders from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and ZooTampa teamed up Thursday morning at the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach to send the now healthy manatee back home.
The manatee named Baylo was rescued after suffering from red tide toxicity. The toxic bloom hampered Tampa Bay area waterways during the summer months.
This rehabilitation of the aquatic mammal is good news following the number of manatee deaths the state has seen in the past year.
From the beginning of the year through Nov. 12, 2021, there have been a total of 1,003 deaths, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's November report.
The figure surpasses the total of 637 deaths reported in 2020 and even the previous all-time high of 830 deaths in 2013, which happened following a red tide outbreak, The Associated Press explains.
FWC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners have been able to create positive results in manatee conservation, according to a press release.
"FWC biologists, managers and law enforcement staff work together closely to evaluate current data and identify necessary actions to conserve this iconic animal," leaders wrote in a press release.