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Anonymous donors pledge $10,000 to manatees, hope to start 'Ripple Effect' | Urban Wildlife

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Anonymous donors pledge $10,000 to manatees, hope to start 'Ripple Effect'
Urban Wildlife
Anonymous donors pledge $10,000 to manatees, hope to start 'Ripple Effect'

Bradenton, Florida -- On Monday, July 11, the South Florida Museum will begin a new fundraising campaign aimed at making waves within the community. The campaign, titled the Ripple Effect, was initiated by two anonymous donors who each generously pledged $10,000 to the Museum’s Manatee Care Program and have challenged the entire community to join them in support of Florida’s endangered gentle giants this summer.

The campaign encourages Museum visitors and the general public to donate via phone at 941-746-4131, ext. 35, in person at the Museum or a secure portal available through www.southfloridamuseum.org.

During the month of July, the Museum and local community celebrates Manatee County’s most famous resident, Snooty the manatee, who is turning 63 this year. The Museum hopes to build a stronger, ongoing fundraising program for the care of manatees utilizing the heightened awareness surrounding Snooty’s birthday.

The Museum leadership and staff members are grateful for the support and optimistic about the campaign. The two donors have challenged the community to match every dollar of their contributions, with a total goal of $40,000 for the summer.

“Our biggest challenge is raising money for daily operations, such as maintaining the complex water and filtration systems and a well-stocked food cooler,” said Brynne Anne Besio, Executive Director of the South Florida Museum. “Knowing that 40% of Museum visitors come primarily for Snooty and the manatees, we hope those interested in protecting the species will join our two generous donors. With the Ripple Effect fundraising campaign, we hope the community will rally behind our facility—as they have so many times in the past—and together make a bigger splash in manatee conservation efforts.”

The Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium accounts for approximately 15% of the organization’s budget, or $260,000 annually. Expenses include providing highly-specialized veterinary care and transportation costs for release, while a large percentage of the funds go towards maintaining healthy diets—primarily romaine lettuce supplemented by kale, carrots and potatoes—for the manatees. Manatees eat 10% to 20% of their body weight each day, depending on their size and age, resulting in annual food costs which can reach $75,000 each year.

While manatees are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are no federal or state funds available for the type of care second stage rehabilitation facilities such as the South Florida Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium provide. City of Bradenton and Manatee County contributions cover less than 10% of expenses.

As a second stage rehabilitation facility, manatees are transferred to the Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium from a critical care hospital once their condition is stable. The Aquarium’s staff works 365 days a year to feed, monitor their condition and care for them until their release. Typically a “visiting” manatee stays for many months while recovering from cold stress (similar to frostbite), illness, injury or having been orphaned. Since joining the manatee rehabilitation network in 1998, the Museum has cared for 23 manatees. Snooty’s current companions, Brandee and Charlie, are expected to be here until early 2012.

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