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3 rehabilitated manatees released in Florida Keys

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, from left, Todd Weston, Rockie Weston, Zeiss Weston and Josie Norgren pose for a photo with an unnamed, rehabilitated adult male manatee before its release back to Florida Keys waters, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Key Colony Beach, Fla. The family helped marine mammal rescuers recover the manatee off the Keys' Sombrero Beach in April 2022, suffering from propeller wounds to its head and a skull fracture caused by a boat strike. The manatee and two others, also rehabilitated, were released Tuesday in the Florida Keys. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

KEY COLONY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Three adult male manatees rescued from waters in the Florida Keys earlier this year have been returned to a Keys canal after being treated and rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando.

Personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dolphin Research Center, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters and SeaWorld helped transition the trio on Tuesday from transport trucks to land and then into the water.

“Three animals in the same day … there’s nothing better,” Dolphin Research Center medical director Dr. Scott Gearhart said. “To take in an animal that needs your help and to see them released is fantastic … all three of them.”

Measuring up to 11 feet (3.3 meters) and weighing more than 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) each, the manatees were rescued in April, June and July, respectively. Their medical conditions included a boat strike that caused a skull fracture, severe emaciation and gastric issues, dehydration and inflammation.

An animal named Manakey weighed 460 pounds (209 kilograms) when it was rescued June 10. The marine mammal weighed 1,005 pounds (456 kilograms) when it went back into the water.

Treatment ranged from removing bone fragments to antibiotics and nutritional support.

Marine mammal experts remind the public to be vigilant when boating in Florida waters.

“We share the waterways with these animals,” Gearhart said. “They’re very slow moving and they get into stuff, and you really need to be careful about what your activity is on the water.”