CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Members of the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team traveled to Charleston this past week along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to assist with the rescue of several manatees, according to Sea World Rescue Team.
The rescue team says the manatees were spotted in the upper reaches of the Cooper River, near a warm water outflow area by the KapStone paper mill.
Due to dropping water temperatures in the river, the manatees remained close to the warm water outflow, isolating them from adequate food sources and the naturally warm waters they need.
KapStone played an integral role in monitoring their activity, reporting key data and providing assistance to the rescue team.
Historically, manatees move into warmer waters when the water temperature drops below 68 degrees, Sea World Orlando Rescue Team said.
The rescue operation took place over two days.
After hours of searching, two adult manatees, a male and a female, were successfully rescued on Thursday, Dec. 8.
Sea World Rescue Team says both adult manatees were deemed healthy and transported back to Florida where they were returned back to the wild in Brevard County near Port Saint John around 9 p.m. by a team from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and the Brevard Zoo).
The female manatee was tagged by Sea to Shore Alliance.
The second manatee, a known animal referred to as Goose, was not retagged.
The team started again the following day, successfully locating and rescuing two male manatees.
They were also healthy and returned in Florida waters at Port Saint John as well on Friday evening around 6 p.m. by staff from Sea World and FWC's Melbourne field office.
The larger of the two males was tagged by staff from Sea to Shore Alliance.
A fifth manatee was spotted in the area but attempts to locate it were not successful.
To help this animal and potential other manatees, Sea World Orlando Resue Team asks the public should report any sightings to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at 843-953-9360 or 1-800-922-5431 or report to the agency's manatee sighting website.