A group of construction workers never expected to become heroes while they were out near a channel in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia one day.
They had seen manatees swimming by the construction zone before, but they were still shocked to discover that a massive female had gotten stranded on a sandy spot far from the water’s edge.
She had likely been using the channel to move from one body of water to another, but when the tide receded, she became trapped. Since she weighed “at least 1,700 pounds,” the crew knew they would need some help to get her safely back to sea.
Nicole Bartlett, a manatee research assistant at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, rushed over! Even though she has interacted with hundreds of manatees, she was still caught off guard.
“To find an animal that large laying on the bank, I’d never seen that before,” she explained. “She was so far away from the water, she could have rolled around forever and she would never make it there.”
Together, Nicole and the construction workers hurried to save the poor manatee. Nicole marked her scars and put a location tracker on her, and then they began the difficult process of getting her back out where she belonged. It didn’t take long to realize they had to get creative.
“She was so big there was no way we were getting her back to the water,” Nicole said. “Our best option was to have the bulldozer bring the water to her.”
Thankfully, the bulldozer driver was able to dig a path to the water, which flowed in and gave the manatee a way out!
“Every rescue is unique, but hers definitely stands out as the strangest rescue I think I’ve ever seen,” Nicole said later. “So many people came together and cared about her enough that everyone rushed to the site to help her.”
Once the weary animal made it back to the ocean, her rescuers were able to track her movements. In an update, Nicole said she made a trip to Florida for the cooler months and has since returned to Savannah for the summer.
Let’s hope she doesn’t have any more land adventures from now on. Thank you to everyone involved for going above and beyond to get this magnificent manatee back home!
Check out the dramatic rescue in the video below, and share this story to recognize the animal rescuers in the world.
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