A 9.5-foot long manatee found trapped in a Florida storm drain is now recovering at SeaWorld after a seven-hour rescue.
The female manatee, which rescuers estimate to weight between 900 and 1000 pounds, was found stuck in a Jacksonville storm drain Wednesday morning by a construction worker paving a nearby street.
"I didn't think a manatee could fit through these pipes," said Beth Pulignano, a witness to the spectacle, according to WJXT.
Dozens of neighborhood residents watched as rescue crews, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department, worked to free the enormous animal.
"Every life is precious to us," Fire Chief Robin Gainey told WJXT. "Doesn't matter who they are."
The rescue team dug up the ground around the storm drain, and even split a pipe to make room and pull the manatee out safely.
Children who had gathered around the scene even held up signs of support, reading "Save Venetia the Manatee," while others named the sea cow "Piper."
By that afternoon, the manatee was lifted out of the ground with some minor scrapes and bruising, the Florida Wildlife Commission wrote on Facebook.
She was transported to SeaWorld in Orlando Wednesday evening to be treated by a team of marine biologists and veterinarians.
"After being trapped for so long, we want to make sure that she can move normally on her own," said Dr. Stacy DiRocco, a veterinarian at Seaworld. "No fractures, she's moving her paddle normally, her pecs look great, she's breathing well. Nothing that looks too severe to me."
SeaWorld expects to be able to free the manatee within a week, WJXT reported.
According to the Florida Wildlife Commission, it is currently migration season for manatees. Officials are asking anyone who sees an injured, sick, dead or tagged manatee to call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC.
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