Mystic Aquarium manatee begins transport to Florida

The rescued pregnant manatee named Washburn is loaded into the back of a United States Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry at Groton-New London Airport on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, for transport to SeaWorld Orlando. Mystic Aquarium, the U.S. Coast Guard, SeaWorld and the International Fund for Animal Welfare worked together to safely transport the manatee.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
The rescued pregnant manatee named Washburn is loaded into the back of a United States Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry at Groton-New London Airport on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, for transport to SeaWorld Orlando. Mystic Aquarium, the U.S. Coast Guard, SeaWorld and the International Fund for Animal Welfare worked together to safely transport the manatee. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Mystic — Just after 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, a team of a dozen people guided a pregnant manatee into a stretcher in a pool at Mystic Aquarium so it could be transported to Sea World in Orlando, Fla.

The 805-pound manatee was weighed and had an ultrasound examination performed before it was wheeled out to a waiting trailer for the drive to Groton-New London Airport, where it arrived at 7:15 a.m.

The manatee then was placed aboard a HC-144 aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, which took off for Orlando International Airport at 8:30 a.m. It arrived in Florida about 2:15 p.m.

Aquarium stranding coordinator Janelle Schuh said that during the seven-hour journey, the manatee will lie on a layer of heavy foam to support its weight and Sea World staff will keep it moist with spray bottles.

Schuh described the manatee as “really, really mellow” and said the ultrasound showed it and its calf to be in good health.

The manatee was rescued by the International Fund for Animal Welfare on Sept. 22 in Falmouth, Mass. The group had been tracking the manatee and, when the water temperature dipped below the survivable level of 68 degrees, the group received an emergency permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to rescue and transport the manatee to the aquarium. It was the first time the aquarium had cared for a manatee.

Tuesday's transport involves the aquarium, Sea World, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Coast Guard and National Guard.

“This has been a real team effort,” Schuh said about the transport.

While watching the manatee being removed from a pool at the aquarium Tuesday morning, Capt. Edward Marohn, the chief of external affairs for the First Coast Guard District in Boston, said that the Coast Guard tries to assist with the transport of animals when it can. He said such transports happen a few times a year and have included flying large numbers of cold stunned sea turtles to Florida from the Northeast. He said he could only find one other instance of the Coast Guard transporting a manatee.

He said the manatee transport had been slated for last week, but Coast Guard planes had been busy assisting in the aftermath of Hurricane Mattthew.

The manatee, which was eating 140 pounds of spinach and lettuce a day while at the aquarium, will stay at Sea World until it is ready to be released into the wild.

j.wojtas@theday.com

In a combined effort, staff from the Mystic Aquarium, SeaWorld and the International Fund for Animal Welfare perform an ultrasound on Washburn, a rescued pregnant manatee, at the Mystic Aquarium on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, as part of Washburn's pre-flight checkup before being flown to SeaWorld Orlando by the U.S. Coast Guard. (Tim Cook/The Day)
In a combined effort, staff from the Mystic Aquarium, SeaWorld and the International Fund for Animal Welfare perform an ultrasound on Washburn, a rescued pregnant manatee, at the Mystic Aquarium on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, as part of Washburn's pre-flight checkup before being flown to SeaWorld Orlando by the U.S. Coast Guard. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Veterinary staff from SeaWorld and the International Fund for Animal Welfare keep watch over Washburn, a pregnant rescued manatee as she is taken from her rehabilitation tank at the Mystic Aquarium Tuesday morning, Oct. 18, 2016 and is flown to Orlando for a stay at SeaWorld before being returned to the wild.       (Tim Cook/The Day)
Veterinary staff from SeaWorld and the International Fund for Animal Welfare keep watch over Washburn, a pregnant rescued manatee as she is taken from her rehabilitation tank at the Mystic Aquarium Tuesday morning, Oct. 18, 2016 and is flown to Orlando for a stay at SeaWorld before being returned to the wild. (Tim Cook/The Day)

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