Thursday, February 22, 2007

Long-captive manatees returned to wild

ORANGE CITY, Fla. -- Two manatees that had been at an Ohio zoo were released into the wild on Tuesday at Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County. Gene, who weighs about 1,900 pounds, had been in captivity for 30 years. When he was 2, he was hit by a boat and cut by its propeller in Brevard County. Gene's son, Dundee, who weighs about 1,300 pounds, was released with his father. Dundee acted a little childish when workers tried to turn him on his stomach. He showed off for the waiting pod in the water and the crowd was delighted. Researchers hope that Gene and Dundee will thrive in the wild. They have installed global position system-like devices in the manatees to monitor their progress. "We're monitering him to make sure he is adapting, and if he is not, then we can intervene. We also do routine health assessments," said Monica Ross, a Wildlife Trust research scientist. It was a bittersweet parting for some in the crowd, including Marvin Darvey, who watched over Gene in the Ohio zoo for more than six years. "I am glad that he can get out there and meet some girls and maybe make some babies because that's the whole object," said Darvey.