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Manatee Found In A Pipe Returns To The Water In Fort Lauderdale

Wilson Sayre
Piper was returned to the wild on Wednesday.

Manatee season starts in November and there will be one more member in the herd swimming the waters around Fort Lauderdale.

A 500-lb. manatee named Piper, roughly a year old, was released back into the wild Wednesday by the crew who rescued and cared for her.

Piper was named for the pipes she swam through, getting stuck in a concrete pump drain near downtown Fort Lauderdale, where was found in May.

A team from Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue had to lift her out using a stretcher in a coordinated rescue with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“Manatees are very curious animals, they go a lot of places they shouldn’t, especially in higher tide events like this,” said Amber Howell with Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “and get into, you know, areas that shouldn’t be normally accessible.”

Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN
Onlookers watch as Piper swims into the waters around Fort Lauderdale.

Piper was transported to the Miami Seaquarium to recover from injuries. She weighed 300 lbs. when she was found. 

Chad Robertson, captain with the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department, helped with the initial rescue.

“It’s rewarding to come back and see how well it’s done, [I'm] excited to see it,” he said. He even took his kid out of school to see the release.

At George English Park in Fort Lauderdale, the Miami Seaquarium’s new “manatee rescue team” truck pulled up to the boat launch with Piper and a half-dozen handlers inside.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, FWC, and Miami Seaquarium team members carried Piper in a stretcher to the edge of the water, where she leisurely swam off and came back for a quick victory lap.

Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN
Piper does a lap before swimming out of sight.

Maya Rodriguez with Miami Seaquarium says these events are always tinged with a little sadness.

“It is a harsh world out there and they have to deal with that,” said Maya. “That’s what makes it a little bit sad in that we know she’s going into an environment that she has to deal with a lot.”

That lot includes water temperature fluctuations, toxins and boats.

For now, the crew is hoping Piper will link up with the other manatees who reside in the area.