Orphaned manatee calf rescued with belly full of plastic bags has died

It was tragic day, but also a “teachable moment.”

That’s how Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo characterized this week’s death of Emoji, an orphaned manatee calf, rescued last October in Florida with a stomach full of garbage after swallowing an ocean of debris and plastic bags. He was in critical condition at the time, but was making a recovery.

Sadly, the manatee passed away on Monday, said the zoo, which has treated and rehabilitated more than 400 manatees over the years.

“Emoji is a tragic illustration of the consequences that simple human actions have on the world around us,” Dr. Ray Ball, the zoo’s senior veterinarian said in a statement Tuesday. “Now more than ever, we must hold ourselves accountable, whether that’s keeping trash and plastics out of our waterways or being more mindful of potential consequences of propeller strikes on wildlife while boating.”

Officials will perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death, but for now, the zoo’s devastated staff wants the loss to serve as a “teachable moment for the public on the dangers of plastic pollution.”

Emoji was on the mend. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo/YouTube

The facility posted this video just a few days before her death with, what is now, an all-too-tragic note.


“Do you remember orphan manatee calf, ‘Emoji?’ The cute little seacow came to the Zoo with a stomach full of trash and a fight for life. After spending over two months receiving critical veterinary care, ‘Emoji’ has made great health strides and looks to have a promising future.”

Orphaned calves sometimes gobble up fishing line, hooks and other detritus while looking for food. Emoji also suffered from disseminated intravascular coagulation, which is common among manatees leaving the animals clotting and bleeding at the same time.

Staff was able to stabilize Emoji, but his long-term odds were always considered uncertain.

To remember the young calf – and educate the public – the facility is working to develop a manatee emoji.

“The more we can get people talking about manatees and ways to protect them, the better. It’s a lesson that a simple human behavior like not throwing trash in waterways, can prevent manatee injuries and deaths. The emoji would serve as a reminder and dedication to the manatee calf, it’s a promise that we will always be there to protect future manatees like him,” Dr. Ball said.

Photos Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo/Facebook


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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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