Update: IFAW and Dennis the Manatee
Update: In response to the outpouring of emotion surrounding the unfortunate death of Dennis the Manatee, IFAW would like to update everyone on the context of IFAW's involvement.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Stranding Network has extensive expertise in rescuing dolphins, whales and seals; however they are not authorized to rescue manatees. With that in mind, IFAW consulted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and their designate, SeaWorld, who have unique expertise in handling these threatened animals.
IFAW had indeed originally sought air transport from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. military, corporations and individuals. The U.S. Coast Guard originally offered to fly Dennis home, but later informed us they had no crew available.
The only suitable alternate aircraft to be found was a DC-9, however it
was so large, it could only land at Otis Air Force Base some 20 miles
away. Beyond the distance and $40,000 expense, a flight would have
involved multiple transfers and high-altitude transport for a marine
mammal already under stress.
The possibility of holding Dennis in a nearby facility was also
explored, but the experts from SeaWorld determined he could be
stabilized for a longer trip to a better-equipped location. In past
rescues, manatees have been held out of water for longer periods of
time and survived, so in the end, the manatee experts chose ground
No option was left unexplored, and no resource went untapped in efforts
to save Dennis. Even Sen. John Kerry’s and U.S. Rep. William Delahunt’s
staffs worked long hours into the night in an effort to secure military
or private air transport. Finally, after a team leader review and
deliberation, the decision was made to drive Dennis to Florida.
Dennis received constant care and monitoring from the SeaWorld experts
throughout his journey. They demonstrated great care and many consider
their efforts heroic. Sadly, wild animals sometimes die despite
everyone's best efforts.
The fact that Dennis died is heartbreaking for the many people who
worked to ensure his safe return to Florida. The staff members here at
IFAW are grateful for the incredible community support that made this
rescue attempt possible.