Published: Dec 04, 2010 1:06 AM EST
Updated: Dec 03, 2010 10:06 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A dozen manatees have gathered at Manatee Park, basking in the spa-like water near the F.P.L. Plant. The week's cool temperatures lured them up the Caloosahatchee River in search of warmer climate.

Now, there's a new manatee, working to bring tourists to a warmer climate. His name is "Hugh Manatee" and he's the newest "spokes-mammal" for the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.

"The idea is based a little bit on the Monk E-mail, Elf Yourself concept," Tamara Pigott, the Executive Director of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau. "We wanted something that would be a viral campaign that one person would send to a friend of theirs or multiple friends of theirs, and they'd like it so much they'd want to send it on to somebody else."

At ManateeMessage.com, you can dress him up, give him balloons or put him in a hot tub, and write a message that he'll speak for you. "Hugh" has a British accent because manatees frequent the West Indies as well as Southwest Florida. The Lee VCB hopes this cute sea cow with warm beach backgrounds will lure cold visitors down south, bringing a much-needed economic boost.

"The good thing about this is we can always come up with something else," Pigott said. "Maybe he'll have shamrocks at St. Patty's Day. Maybe he'll have a Red Socks or Twins cap, I don't know."