ORLANDO, Fla. - Two orphaned manatee calves now call SeaWorld Orlando home while they get the care they need.
These two baby manatees are like two peas in a pod, swimming side by side in their tank.
"Orphans take a lot of work," said Nik Ricci, a senior animal care specialist at SeaWorld Orlando. "We’re talking about around-the-clock care."
Life without a mom isn’t easy. These calves have a lot of growing to do before they are healthy enough to be released back into the wild.
That’s why bottle feedings take up a lot of time and energy.
"We feed them every three hours," Ricci said. "So we will give them the nutrition they need."
That feeding routine will go on for the next three months.
Right now, at three months old, they are about 70 pounds each and need to grow to 600 pounds before they are ready to be released for life in the Springs.
"We need to do it during the wintertime, because we can teach them almost everything they need to know about being a manatee here at the park except how to migrate to find warm water. So if we release them in the winter they can then watch the adults who are migrating, follow them until they know where to go," Ricci explained.
Once they reach that adult weight, the little boy and little girl will be given names. It’s a celebratory moment that caretakers said they wait to do until they know their mission is complete.
"Sometimes we get manatees that are emaciated that haven’t had enough food. Sometimes we get those red tide animals, animals that have been struck by vehicles, and sometimes we also get orphans," Ricci told FOX 35.
With a red tide bloom in the Tampa area and a lack of seagrass on the east coast, it has been a devastating year for manatees. In July, FWC reported 866 manatee deaths throughout the state.
The work of SeaWorld Orlando and other partners is critical for their survival.
Officials said there are ways you can help too: Don’t feed the manatees, obey boat speeds, and report a distressed or dead manatee to FWC by dialing *FWC.
"The most important information they can provide to FWC is a photo of the animal, know the exact location that they’re at and also give a brief description," Ricci added.
Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.