In July of 1989, a young orphaned manatee was rescued near Daytona Beach, FL and brought to SeaWorld’s Manatee Rehabilitation Facility. Weighing only 42 pounds, this tiny calf was named Lil Joe. After hands-on care, Lil Joe would grow to become a special, not-so-little manatee.
Lil Joe was one of many bottle-fed manatees at SeaWorld. He was bottle-fed 12 ounces of animal formula, plus a small amount of romaine lettuce every three hours. After being bottle-fed for several months by the animal care team, Lil Joe eventually took matters into his own flippers and fed himself!
Throughout the span of 20 years, Lil Joe has been rehabilitated at various facilities including Lowey Park Zoo in Tampa, FL, SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego, and the Cincinnati Zoo. In 1990, he was visited by President George Bush, who came to SeaWorld to honor SeaWorld’s research biologist at the time, Dr. Daniel Odell.
On February 15, 2011, Lil Joe was released at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, FL. Less than six weeks later, he was rescued from Lake George, FL because he wasn’t eating. Now, after much time, the larger Lil Joe has made his way back to SeaWorld Orlando’s Manatee Rehabilitation Facility measuring over 10 feet long and weighing a whopping 1420 pounds! He's currently receiving care from SeaWorld's 24/7 animal care team, and they are optimistic about his recovery.