Freedom at last for America's loneliest manatee: Romeo, 67, is finally moved to ... trends now
America's loneliest manatee has finally been moved after the mammal was left to live out his twilight years in a tiny 30ft concrete pool in Miami and forced to live separately from his mate Juliet.
A video of Romeo taken last month at Miami Seaquarium went viral showing the 67-year-old manatee, who has been there since 1956, circling in a worse-for-wear pool.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) successfully transported three manatees – Romeo, Juliet and Clarity – from Miami Seaquarium (MSQ) to SeaWorld Orlando and ZooTampa.
The transport was a tremendous struggle due to the animals' size, weight and health condition.
But with specialized vehicles and an experienced team of veterinarians and animal care specialists who accompanied the manatees, all three animals made the trip safely.
Juliet being placed in the water at ZooTampa
Clarity being delivered to ZooTampa
SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team prepares to move Clarity
The animals required rescue and relocation due to lack of sufficient care at their previous facility, as reported by the USDA.
The first manatee, Clarity, is an adult female manatee that has stayed at MSQ since 2009 when she was rescued due to watercraft-related injuries.
The US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) is stepping up to remove the animal from MSQ and has requested SeaWorld Orlando care for her.
She will rehabilitate at SeaWorld Orlando until the MRP reviews her case and determines the best placement for her.
The other two manatees, Romeo and Juliet, are both 65 years old, weigh more than 3,000 pounds and have resided at MSQ since the late 1950’s.
ZooTampa contacted the USFWS and offered to temporarily care for the two manatees, while the MRP identifies a permanent location for them.
Video of Romeo swimming forlornly in his tank - estimated to be just 30ft wide - went viral earlier this month as surfing legend Kelly Slater backed a campaign for his release, which quickly gained more than 20,000 signatures.
The video, shot by campaign group UrgentSeas, pans over a desolate area of the park before zooming in on the solitary figure of Romeo, spinning in circles in the murky waters.
UrgentSeas co-founder, Phil Demers, claims that Romeo has been kept alone in the tank in 'Pompano pools' which are closed to the public, since at least last April.
Romeo was moved after an outcry from animal right activist over his living conditions.
Campaigners said he had been kept in isolation since at least April.
One of the manatees being transported
Juliet in a sling as Clarity awaits
Clarity in SeaWorld Orlando
US Fish and Wildlife Services confirmed that would be transporting Romeo from the center, where the 'loneliest whale in the world', Lolita, died earlier this year
A spokesperson for the service said last week: 'The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes the health and welfare of manatees in managed care seriously.
'The Service is working with an experienced team of manatee rescue and rehabilitation experts through the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership to assist with the transport effort of manatees from Miami Seaquarium.'
Romeo had been kept at the Seaquarium since 1956 and campaigners said she had been alone since at least April of this year
The manatees at the facility being moved so that they could receive appropriate care, with three of them appearing to be experiencing health issues.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that transport of the animals was high-risk, but necessary for the animals' future wellbeing.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture slammed the site operators, The Dolphin Company, for their treatment of Romeo and general poor care.
Manatees are semi-social animals and 'suffer psychologically when not living in pairs or groups' - but Romeo has long been separated from his partner, and the mother of his offspring, Juliet, and has been alone since his other companions were released.
It is not clear exactly how long Romeo had been alone, or why he couldn't be with his partner Juliet, but Demers said: 'He was separated from Juliet a long time ago - I think it's a breeding issue, they aren't allowed to breed manatees.'
In an update, Demers said: 'US Fish and Wildlife are expected to relocate Romeo, Juliet and another manatee from the Miami Seaquarium to an MPR (Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership) facility in the coming days. Can’t happen soon enough.'
The drone footage shows Romeo alone in a small concrete tank in an 'off-limits' area of the park where he is allegedly kept alone