TAMPA, Fla. (June 15, 2022) – ZooTampa released Bellissima Wednesday morning at Horton Park in Cape Coral. The manatee team named her Bellissima, Italian, for “beautiful,” as she was rescued from Beautiful Island where she was found stranded by a hiker.
When Bellissima first arrived at ZooTampa’s David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center on March 9, 2021, her condition was dire. She was emaciated and had severe injuries to her body and fins from exposure. When rescued, she weighed only 750 pounds. A manatee his size would have weighed over 1,000 pounds.
After more than a year of rehabilitation, which consisted of daily wound care and hydrotherapy for nearly four months by the dedicated medical and animal care teams, Bellissima is in good health and now weighs 1,445 pounds.
“Bellissima was a true testament to the incredibly resilient nature of these amazing animals,” said Dr. Melissa Nau, Director of Animal Health. “Watching her recover from her battle for survival by being stranded on an island has been truly amazing. We are so grateful to the hiker who found and reported her and the team at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) who rescued her and brought her to our Manatee Intensive Care Center.
As one of only four critical care centers in the United States, ZooTampa has cared for more than 500 manatees, the majority of whom have returned to the wild. Residents can help save manatees by immediately reporting sick and injured manatees to FWC at 1-888-404-3922.
Lowry Park ZooTampa is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to excellence in conservation, education, recreation and research. The zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is recognized as the busiest zoological cultural institution in Central Florida. The zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Ave. in Tampa and is open seven days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours for select events. For more information, visit www.zootampa.org or follow the zoo on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.