Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ilya gets a ride "home" to Florida!

Update: Ilya the Manatee Gets a Ride Home to Florida
No byline, this is an excerpt from the complete story at:

Ilya is finally back home in Florida - and not a moment too soon. Ilya is the manatee that was spotted off the coast of Massachusetts during the summer - way north of where manatees normally live. Around mid-October, Ilya resurfaced again - this time, outside an oil refinery in Linden, New Jersey, near New York City. The water coming out of the refinery was a comfortable 75 degrees - just right for a manatee. So Ilya hung around.

But away from the refinery, the temperature of the waters Ilya would have to swim through to get back to Florida had already dipped as low as the 50s - temperatures low enough to kill a manatee. So wildlife officials set about to rescue Ilya. There was just one problem. After gorging himself on lots of lettuce outside the oil refinery, Ilya disappeared - for a week-and-a-half.

Finally, on October 27th, he resurfaced near the oil refinery. According to the Miami Herald, it took rescuers four tries to catch him. After all, it's not easy to catch an animal that's estimated to be nine feet long and weigh 1,100 pounds. But the rescuers were finally able to get Ilya out of the water. They took him to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey. And on October 29th, he was loaded onto a US Coast Guard cargo plane and flown to Miami.

Ilya is continuing his recovery at Miami's Seaquarium. He's getting special medical treatment - and all the lettuce he can eat. "It looks like he does have a good chance (to recover)," said Seaquarium veterinarian Maya Rodriguez, in an interview with the Associated Press. "He doesn't have severe signs of cold stress." Ilya also has some company, reportedly - a young female manatee. "Right away, they were touching noses," Rodriguez told the Boston Globe. "It'll be good for him, because he hasn't had company for awhile."

Scientists say they've been tracking Ilya for the past ten years or so. They say he has swum north in summers past. But he has never stayed up north so late in the year. Now, thanks to some caring humans, Ilya is back where manatees are supposed to be - the warm waters of Florida. "We're very relieved," said Bob Schoelkopf, the co-director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, in an interview with the Associated Press. "We spent a lot of days worrying about him."

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