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Memphis Manatee

Manatee swims far from home and winds up in Memphis. Now the race is on to move the happy wanderer back to warmer waters.

Activists concerned for life of "Memphis manatee"

Wolf River Harbor - A manatee rescue team from Sea World Orlando is on the way to Memphis to rescue our warm-water visitor, and their arrival can't come too soon... as our temperatures keep dropping. Memphis has no manatee experts, so police and the coast guard are following the lead of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources agency and Florida Game and Fish experts.

They're trying to keep the animal corralled until proper help can arrive.

Normally you'll find what some call "sea cows" in the warm waters of the coast from Florida to Texas. But they do like to travel and have even made it all the way up to New England.

But the midwest? Cargill manager Joe Sparks thought it was a joke. "Police officers came in the door and said someone called in and said a hippo was down here and I told him to be careful and watch for the elephants." laughed Sparks, a Cargill Inc. manager.

These gentle creatures are not predators, and just wander around looking for food. The Memphis manatee has attracted quite a crowd since word got out, and not all of them are happy.

Here's the problem: Manatees need warm water to survive. They can't live in water below 60 degrees without suffering from hypothermia. The water here is said to be warmer than the Mississippi river, but I'm told the river level rose about 5 feet overnight, sending more cold water into this harbor.

And manatee lovers say this one does NOT need to stay.

"It needs to be gotten out of the water." said Kathy Curtis of midtown who isn't one bit happy about the lack of action from wildlife officials. She wants the manatee captured, removed and kept warm until it can be moved to Florida.

"They made no effort to try to keep this manatee from going back into the Mississippi where it could have been struck by a tree or anything." she said. Curtiss has gone swimming with Florida's manatees several times and knows how gentle and curious they are. She doesn't want to see it die as Memphis temperatures continue to drop.

And neither do any of the neighboring businesses here who have pledged to do all they can to save this gentle creature.

"If there's anything we can do, we'll give 'em all the assistance we can."

Manatees are noriously hard to catch, and have to be kept constantly wet when moved.. but it can be done. Local officials don't want to chance doing the job themselves because they don't know these animals.

That's why the Sea World team's arrival, probably sometime Wednesday, will be crucial to the survivial of the Memphis manatee.



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