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Manatee mama and calf recover from boat strike

SeaWorld's Animal Rescue Team returned a mother-calf pair of manatees to the wild Friday after several weeks of rehabilitation that included use of a "manatee wetsuit."

According to the park, the duo was rescued back on May 9 after a boat strike in Ormond Beach. Experts determined that the 1,255-lb, 10-foot-2-inch-long mama manatee was suffering from a pneumothorax, which is air trapped inside her body cavity. That caused severe buoyancy issues, which could have negatively impacted her health, eating patterns, and the nursing of her calf.

SeaWorld's veterinary team outfitted her with what they called a manatee wetsuit designed for such rescue cases. The wetsuit helped the manatee with her floating and allowed the team draw out trapped air and fluids. The healthy mama manatee now weighs in at 1,270 lbs.

Although he was unharmed by the boat strike, the young calf is still nursing and dependent on his mother, so it was critical that the pair remain together even after the mama's rescue.

"There's nothing cuter than a manatee calf. To be able to take this calf and treat the mother and be able to return them to the wild, that's what SeaWorld is all about," Dr. Josh Gearhart offered.

The pair was released together Friday into the Halifax River near Tomoka State Park in Volusia County.