Friday, September 21, 2012

Little Econ Manatee

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J.B. the Manatee—
on a long strange trip.
He appeared a month ago
in the lagoon
behind the YMCA,
something of a mystery. 

His real name is Lil Joe.
He’s hanging out ten miles
from downtown Orlando,
lost in the Little Econ River.
Winter’s cold could kill him,
in that shallow stretch of river. 

Lil Joe was orphaned
when just a few weeks old.
Raised in captivity,
he’s most likely a bit daffy
about the ways of the wild. 

Newborn manatees learn
survival from their mothers,
where to eat,
where to find warm waters.
Lil Joe is without a clue.

Sea World Orlando,
Sea World San Diego,
the Cincinnati Zoo,
the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.

Lil Joe was released into the wild;
his caretakers crossed their fingers,
setting him free in February
at Blue Spring, in warm water.

He left Blue Spring. It turned cold.
He was caught in the chilly channel
of the St. Johns River.
He began to suffer.

Lil Joe endured;
he is still alive.
What’s next is hard to say.
Will he get back to the St. Johns River?
Will he find warm water for the winter?
Will his long strange trip continue?

Manatees, sometimes called sea cows, absolutely delight me. They weigh about a ton and a half, yet are so graceful in the water. And there is something about their faces that intrigues me.

10/24/13: Update:  The Orlando Sentinel had a story about Lil Joe yesterday.  He is fat and happy at Sea World. Is he fit to be released into the wild? Physically, but not mentally. He did not have a mother to teach him survival skills, like how to find food, and so he may stay at Sea World for the rest of his life. I hope so.

© 2012 Catherine Giordano
This picture is from