A Florida manatee whose exciting yet perilous voyage to the frigid waters of the Northeast that amazed spectators along the Eastern Seaboard is recuperating at the Miami Seaquarium from injuries related to cold stress he suffered from his two-week stay near a Linden, N.J., oil refinery.
The rescue, which took nearly eight hours and the help of 30 people, entailed using a large net and Conoco-Phillips johnboats. Rescuers failed capturing it three times, but the fourth time was the charm.
Once they got the 1,100-pound, 10-foot-long manatee onto the muddy creek bank, a truck transferred Ilya to an indoor heated pool in the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., where marine mammal veterinarians examined the mammal.
The manatee, known as Ilya, was first spotted Oct. 15 and was rescued nearly two weeks later on Oct. 27.
Federal wildlife authorities kept the rescue a secret, fearing a crush of media and well-wishers could stress the animal.
"We're very relieved,'' said Bob Schoelkopf, co-director of the center. "We spent a lot of days worrying about him.''
Ilya chowed down on crates of lettuce as he regained his strength, downing $300 worth of produce in two days.
"All this thing did was eat,'' Schoelkopf said. "But that's a good thing.''
Ilya only suffered minor complications with cold related stress and was healthy enough to be tranported back to Florida. The U.S. Coast Guard provided the transportation from Atlantic City, N.J., to Miami, F.L.
The Miami Seaquarium will take care of the manatee and help rehabilitate the animal with its staff until they see that he is strong enough to be released back into the wild.
Ilya travelled as far as Connecticut, some people reported. Rehab program managers had hoped the manatee would eventually start heading back south but never did. They began to get concerned when the mammal was spotted near the refinery in the middle of October.
The mammals can handle temperatures as low as 68 degrees, but Ilya was in colder waters with temperatures ranging from the low 50s to the mid 60s. He had spent more than two weeks in those waters predisposing him to injuries related to cold stress.
The weather stopped earlier plans to rescue the manatee.