TAMPA, Fla. – ZooTampa offers a story of inspiration and hope with the successful release of Bellissima, Wednesday morning at Horton Park in Cape Coral.
The manatee team named her Bellissima, Italian, for “beautiful,” because she was rescued from Beautiful Island where she was found stranded by a hiker.
When Bellissima first arrived at ZooTampa back on March 9, 2021, her condition was dire. She was emaciated and had severe wounds to her body and flippers from exposure. Upon rescue, she weighed just 750 pounds. A manatee of her size should have weighed well over 1,000 pounds.
After more than a year of rehabilitation, which consisted of daily wound care and hydrotherapy for almost four months by the dedicated medical and animal care teams, Bellissima is healthy and now weighs 1,445 pounds.
“Bellissima has been a true testament to the incredibly resilient nature of these amazing animals. Watching her recovery after her fight to survive stranding on an island has been a true marvel,” said Dr. Melissa Nau, Director of Animal Health. “We are so thankful to the hiker who found and reported her and to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) team who rescued her and brought her to our manatee critical care center.”
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“She looks like a completely different manatee,” said Tiffany Burns, Director of Conservation for ZooTampa. “It’s always a good day when we can return a manatee back to the wild. The resilience of manatees always inspires us, and Bellissima is no exception.”
As one of only 4 critical care centers in the United States, ZooTampa has cared for more than 500 manatees, with the majority returned to the wild. Residents can help save manatees by reporting sick and injured manatees immediately to FWC at 1-888-404-3922.