LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Did you know, some of Lee County's Manatee Park volunteers are certified to rescue the endangered species? This comes as dozens of the large mammals crowd the park's famous warm waters by the power plant.
"This morning I did find what I'm hoping to be the last rescue."
If a picture says a thousand words, this one speaks volumes. "I have saved the lives of three manatee and was involved in a 4th rescue as well," said Tim Martell.
Tim Martell is a tour guide and manatee park volunteer. But he's also specially certified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to save the marine mammal when it's in distress. "The number one thing that runs through my mind when this is all going down is how thankful I am that I was able to get there in time," he said.
Many manatees, he says, suffer from red tide. The toxic algae causes seizures leading to paralysis and drowning. According to FWC, 205 in Florida have died since March 1st, from red tide, boat strikes, or cold stress, with the highest number in Lee County.
Martell is one of two specially certified volunteers at Manatee Park. Their latest rescue happened Friday morning.
"They towed it up here to the launch and pulled it out. It was a successful rescue and its on its way to Lowry Zoo in Tampa," said Manatee Park's Senior Program Specialist Nancy Kilmartin
"To me, being out there with the animal and being in the cold water and all that? That's not really important to me. What is important is that this animal survives. Every life at this time, counts. More than I can say," said Martell.
Unlike their specially trained staff, if you see a manatee in distress you aren't allowed to interact with it at all, but you can call FWC.
The manatees will be rehabilitated and returned to the wild.
We're told some fourth grade students at Bonita Springs Charter School recently raised almost $1500. That money will be used to purchase food for manatees that are recovering in rescue.