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Florida Manatee Oceanaria Reimbursement Assistance Program

The Florida Manatee Oceanaria Reimbursement Assistance Program provides funds for federally permitted facilities that rescue, rehabilitate, release and monitor Florida manatees. The program has existed since 1991 and has been managed by the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute since 2000.  

Originally, there were three contracted and permitted manatee rehabilitation facilities in Florida: Lowry Park Zoo, Miami Seaquarium and SeaWorld Florida. As the need to provide acute care for manatees has increased, additional facilities have been added including Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.  

Funds available for reimbursement vary annually depending upon legislative appropriation. The current appropriation is $1.254 million. $125,000 of appropriated funds each year go toward directly reimbursing costs related to field-based activities $50,000 is used to reimburse the facilities for rescues, field-based costs, and health assessments and $75,000 is used to help offset costs associated with monitoring the success of released manatees. The rest goes toward the costs of in-facility care. 

Most reimbursement amounts are calculated with a formula which includes elements specified in the statute and do not reflect the actual costs incurred by the facilities. The tables below contain information regarding reimbursement amounts for previous fiscal years. 

Current

Fiscal Year 2018-2019

Facility Amount Manatees Released
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park $60,180.80 4
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens $86,073.00 0
Miami Seaquarium $240,142.51 18
SeaWorld Orlando $832,259.69 26
ZooTampa at Lowry Park $35,343.98 10

Fiscal Year 2017-2018

Facility Amount Manatees Released
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

$57,526.39

1
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

$62,807.08

0
Miami Seaquarium

$204,392.65

9
SeaWorld Orlando

$748,514.43

14
ZooTampa at Lowry Park

$180,759.45

15

Fiscal Year 2016-2017

Facility Amount Manatees Released
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park $10,312 0
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens 0 0
Miami Seaquarium $250,041 5
SeaWorld Orlando $573,134 17
ZooTampa at Lowry Park $420,514 18

Archive

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has been in operation as a tourist attraction since the mid 1900’s and was added to the Florida state park system in 1984. The park has several long-term captive manatees that reside there year-round. In addition, they serve as a back-up acute care facility primarily to help with overflow from the other acute care facilities around the state, sometimes providing medically necessary care while not often taking acute care rescues directly from the wild.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the newest manatee acute care facility, opened in fall 2017, however staff there have been assisting with rescues since August 2006.

Miami Seaquarium
Miami Seaquarium was the first manatee acute care facility in Florida. The center first cared for an orphaned manatee in 1955 and has been participating in manatee rehabilitation in some form ever since.

View funding history for Miami Seaquarium

SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld has been an active participant in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals for over 50 years.

View funding history for SeaWorld Orlando

ZooTampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa at Lowry Park (known as Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo until 2018) has been an active manatee acute care center since 1991. In 2015, the Florida legislature began approving funding for the zoo to renovate and improve its hospital and rehabilitation facilities. To date, a total of $3 million has been appropriated for these renovations. In order to facilitate this major renovation, the zoo closed its manatee rehabilitation program for construction in October of 2017 and reopened in Spring 2019 when renovations were completed.

View funding history for ZooTampa at Lowry Park