On Sunday afternoon, as Hurricane Irma made its destructive crawl up the Florida coastline, a group of five friends came across what they called a “blob” on the receding waters of Sarasota Bay in (none other than) Manatee County, Florida.
The blob, it turned out, was a pair of manatees that got caught on dry land in the extremely low tide created by the Category 2 storm.
The five residents tried moving the 650-pound creatures, commonly known as “sea cows,” but were unsuccessful. So they resorted to a second option.
They decided to photograph the pair in hopes that sharing the images on Facebook would call attention from rescue teams.
Great job today by Deputies Mizner and Hart as they helped rescue two Manatees that were stranded in receding water. pic.twitter.com/DwPfTSVGHz— Manatee Sheriff (@ManateeSheriff) September 10, 2017
“We had to do something about it,” Tony Faradini-Campos told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a local Florida paper. “We couldn’t just let those manatees die out there.”
Within four hours of their post, the pictures were shared over 6,000 times on Facebook, and had racked up nearly 800 comments.
“I was amazed how many people started sharing the story,” Faradini-Campos added.
Two Manatee County deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) officials responded to the scene after seeing the post.
In 100 mile per hour winds, the group moved the trapped animals across the muddy seafloor about 100 yards away back into the channel.
“They put some tarps under the manatees and they kind of used that as a luge and got him back out there,” Faradini-Campos said. “I was a little scared that the tide was going to come in. We were advised just to get out of the Bay for our safety.”
The devastating storm left at least four dead in Florida and 27 across the Caribbean, where it hit the hardest. In its wake, as many as 6.5 million people lost power across the state, according to state officials.
Thousands of wild animals, like the federally-protected manatee, were left in harm’s way.
Nadia Gordon, marine mammal biologist with FWC, said the commission has received several reports of stranded manatees across the county.
“When the tide comes back,” Gordon told the Bradenton Herald, a local paper, “we do have concerns of manatees ending up in areas where they naturally wouldn’t.”
Gordon added that she believes most manatees will remain unscathed.
Organizations accepting donations for the welfare of animals in Irma’s path include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Best Friends Animal Society and the South Florida Wildlife Center. Global Citizen campaigns on protecting the fragile biodiversity of the planet and implementing marine protected areas around the world. You can take action here.
Since Sunday, Faradina-Campos and his friends have received an outpouring of praise for their rescue mission.
“Absolutely amazing — it’s an amazing story,” Faradini-Campos said. “It shows what people can do when they come together.”