Rescuers worked for five hours to free a manatee stuck in a Jacksonville, Florida, storm drain. The mammal seemed to have emerged relatively unscathed and is at Orlando's SeaWorld for observation.
When a street crew worker spotted the manatee early in the morning on Nov. 30, she immediately contacted Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, according to WTLV. Wildlife officials called firefighters who brought in a technical rescue team, as well as a veterinarian from the Jacksonville Zoo.
But getting the 1,000-pound, 9-foot animal out of the 36-inch drainage pipe was no easy task.
“We saw him roll over on his back one time and that’s a sign of them giving up,” Lt. Alan Mallard of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department told Jacksonville.com. “We knew that time was short, so we want to work as fast and as safely as we can to give him a chance.”
That involved digging a trench and cutting pipes away in order to reach the manatee. Then Mallard was lowered into the pipe to help ease the animal out.
As word of the manatee's predicament spread, dozens of people gathered to observe in person and others joined in on social media to watch the rescue unfold live.
The manatee had scrapes and abrasions on its nose, sides and back, indicating it had tried to unsuccessfully work itself free, said Nadia Gordon, marine mammal biologist with Fish and Wildlife.
“That’s why this animal’s actually going to go to SeaWorld to get a full workup, make sure everything’s OK, make sure he’s eating OK, that his digestive system is working,” she said. “The goal is to release the animal back into the wild.”
Here's a video of the manatee's dramatic rescue:
It turns out the manatee is a female and has been named "Piper" by first responders and fans.