TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo made a sad announcement on Tuesday. Emoji, the orphaned manatee calf the zoo had rescued, passed away.
FOX 13 first reported on Emoji when he arrived at the zoo in October. Representatives from Lowry Park said he had critical health concerns, including a stomach full of ingested debris and plastic bags.
"He quickly became a beloved member of the TLPZ family and stole the hearts of guests and those who learned his story," the zoo said in their Facebook post announcing the news.
The zoo says their animal care team was able to stabilize Emoji at first, but his long term odds remained uncertain due to the number of dire health concerns he faced while so young.
The orphaned manatee calf died early Monday morning. The zoo plans to perform a full autopsy in order to determine the exact cause of death.
The zoo's manatee care staff are "incredibly saddened" by the loss of Emoji.
The Florida Aquarium and hundreds of other friends of Lowry Park extended their condolences on Facebook.
But amidst the mourning, they hope both citizens and scientists are able to learn from the calf's death.
“Emoji is a tragic illustration of the consequences that simple human actions have on the world around us,” said Dr. Ray Ball, senior veterinarian for Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. “Now more than ever, we must hold ourselves accountable, whether that’s keeping trash and plastics out of our waterways or being more mindful of potential consequences of propeller strikes on wildlife while boating.”
Although his life was short, it did have impact.
Emoji helped educate the public about manatee care and the dangers of pollution. He also gave the zoo's veterinary staff an opportunity to learn more about critical care for manatees.
"Our findings will benefit future manatee research and breakthroughs," the zoo said.
Emoji was named as part of a campaign to develop a manatee emoji. In the wake of his death, the zoo is continuing with the campaign as a memoriam for the young calf.
"The emoji would serve as a reminder and dedication to the manatee calf, it’s a promise that we will always be there to protect future manatees like him.” said Dr. Ball.