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Scientists rescue manatee in danger after yearlong search

Manatee in net

March 15, 1997
Web posted at: 8:00 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Susan Candiotti

MIAMI (CNN) -- It's been a wild week for the manatee formerly known as Phil.

After a yearlong search for the baby sea cow, Phil was rescued Thursday from certain death in Florida's heavily traveled waterways. But the manatee was in for surprising news.

"The first news is it's Phyllis, not Phil, and she's doing great," said Madeline Rudolph of the Miami Seaquarium.

Phyllis' saga began when she somehow got tangled up in a nylon-type cord shortly after birth. The packing tape was likely tossed into a Florida canal.

"She swam into it, and as her body grew, this thing started to constrict, literally constrict, as she grew around it," said Dr. Gregory Bossart of the Miami Seaquarium. "This is a classic example of what man does to manatees."

"If we didn't clip it, it would have stayed around the animal and suffocated her and she would have died," Rudolph said.

After examining the mammal Friday, veterinarians at the Seaquarium say Phyllis is suffering from some muscle and tissue damage but is in stable but guarded condition. They have placed her on antibiotics to clear up her infection.

Veterinarians had feared the manatee might need surgery but now believe that might not be necessary. In fact, Phyllis may soon be able to be released back into the wild.

Doctors say Phyllis weighs about half of what manatee should for her age.

Roughly 2,600 of the endangered sea cows remain in the wild today, spending most of their time dodging boaters in Florida's waterways. Their greatest enemy continues to be of the human variety, as the victim of boat accidents, flood gates, fish hooks and lines.

"Manatees are remarkably resilient," Bossart says. "We cut 'em up with boats, run over them and they survive in spite of us."


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