TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - ZooTampa’s manatee care center is back open after more than a year of renovations.
Currently, there are four manatees rehabbing in the newly-opened facility.
“It is very very rewarding when they make that recovery and we release them back out,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, the lead manatee veterinarian.
This is the first time the care center has re-opened in 18 months. It underwent a $3 million renovation. The biggest upgrade is a new filtration system, which zoo officials say can turn over 125,000 gallons of water every 90 minutes. That will help keep water quality at or above federal standards the zoo says.
“It is very important when we house aquatic animals that the water is of good high quality,” Dr. Smith said. “So this will help us in the future and increase our intake as well.”
Thursday's peek behind the scenes was also a chance to address the recent controversy over one of the zoo’s veterinarians. While the care center was being worked on, allegations of manatee mistreatment were leveled against Dr. Ray Ball.
Federal officials ultimately allowed the manatee center to re-open, but essentially barred Dr. Ball from working with those animals. He still works at the zoo but not with manatees.
“I want the public to be sure we understand we're providing the best possible care. We've got a great vet in charge of this program. We've got a great team and a brand new facility providing the best water quality we can for these animals,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, the chief zoological officer.