Among the VIPs who have come to the Manatee Viewing Center and the adjacent Florida Conservation and Technology Center over the past week, one of them feels so comfortable there he’s going to stay.
No, he’s not among the Hillsborough County Commissioners who visited the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) at the Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC) on Jan. 26. Commissioners Sandra Murman, Stacy White and Pat Kemp and their aides got an overview of the many educational and recreational programs there for people of all ages (and students especially). This includes summer classroom programs as well as hiking, wildlife watching and kayaking – which Commissioner Kemp participated in with others who attended the event.
“The Suncoast Youth Conservation Center provides unique opportunities for environmental education and research – and what a great place to kayak!” Kemp said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which owns the SYCC, is a partner with Tampa Electric and The Florida Aquarium in various initiatives at FCTC, rising on land in Apollo Beach that previously was unused land choked by invasive plants, a palm tree farm and other property. As it expands dramatically with greenhouses, sea turtle and coral laboratories, classroom space and more, it will grow as a unique resource for environmental stewardship in West Central Florida – with free admission for the public.
Sarasolo arrives (and goes out) on a high note
About that visitor who’s sticking around: that would be Sarasolo, a manatee – all approximately 750 pounds of him. At the time of his March 2015 rescue in Sarasota, he suffered from cold stress and weighed only 276 pounds. Now, after rehabilitation at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and a subsequent stay at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, he’s swimming free at the Manatee Viewing Center. Talk about a full recovery!
Before a packed crowd of visitors at the center and countless cell phone cameras, members of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Sea to Shore Alliance and the South Florida Museum – joined by the Manatee Viewing Center’s Yasmin McComber – carried Sarasolo into the clean, warm water discharge canal of Big Bend Power Station. It was a scene that’s happened many times before – and one that will continue to happen while manatees need the help of licensed, professional humans who care.
On Feb. 2, without the need for any extra encouragement, Sarasolo swam off to be with the other manatees in the canal, which often hosts hundreds when the water temperature of Tampa Bay falls below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
“There’s just no experience quite like joining a group of people to carry a big, healthy manatee down into the canal at the Manatee Viewing Center,” McComber said. “It was great to see Sarasolo swim free and great for everyone who got to see it happen.”