Freedom at last for America’s loneliest manatee: Romeo, 67, is finally moved to a new home along with his mate Juliet after beloved mammal was left to live out his twilight years alone in tiny 30ft concrete pool in Miami
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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, following years of outrage from campaigners about the living conditions there.

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 transportation was a tremendous struggle due to the animals’ size, weight and health condition. 

But accompanied by specialized vehicles and an experienced team of vets and animal care specialists, all three made the trip safely.

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. 67-year-old Romeo is pictured being placed into this new home

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. 67-year-old Romeo is pictured being placed into this new home

Earlier on Tuesday, the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) successfully transported three manatees – Romeo, Juliet (pictured) and Clarity – from Miami Seaquarium (MSQ) to SeaWorld Orlando and ZooTampa

Earlier on Tuesday, the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) successfully transported three manatees – Romeo, Juliet (pictured) and Clarity – from Miami Seaquarium (MSQ) to SeaWorld Orlando and ZooTampa

The transportation was a tremendous struggle due to the animals' size, weight and health condition

The transportation was a tremendous struggle due to the animals’ size, weight and health condition 

The animals required rescue and relocation due to a lack of sufficient care at their previous facility, as reported by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Earlier this month, the USDA tore into the site operators at Miami Seaquarium, the Dolphin Company, for their neglect of Romeo. 

Romeo and Juliet weigh more than 3,000 pounds and have resided at MSQ since the late 1950s. 

ZooTampa contacted the USFWS and offered to temporarily care for the two manatees, while the MRP identifies a permanent location for them. 

The other manatee, Clarity, is an adult female that had stayed at MSQ since 2009 when she was rescued due to watercraft-related injuries. 

She is being rehabilitated at SeaWorld Orlando until the MRP reviews her case and determines the best placement for her.

Staff started the cross-state trip with Romeo’s departure at 8.30am and Juliet left just 50 minutes later.

‘Today is a very big day,’ said Melissa Nau, the senior director of animal health at ZooTampa. ‘Manatees are in the hearts of so many Floridians. The fact that we get to help sick and injured animals have a chance to have a longer life is definitely a huge honor.’

Romeo arrived at ZooTampa first at around 1.30pm, where elated zoo staff greeted him after a drive of around four and a half hours. 

‘There was precious cargo coming through,’ Cynthia Stringfield, a ZooTampa veterinarian who was on board with Romeo for the drive, told the Tampa Bay Times. ‘Romeo did extremely well during the transport. He’s a very old manatee, and that was a lot for him. But he got to the zoo with no problems at all.’ 

His star-crossed lover Juliet followed at around 3.55pm.

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. Clarity is pictured being delivered to ZooTampa

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. Clarity is pictured being delivered to ZooTampa

Romeo and Juliet's release has followed years of outrage from campaigners about the living conditions at Miami Seaquarium. SeaWorld Orlando's Rescue Team prepares to move Clarity

Romeo and Juliet’s release has followed years of outrage from campaigners about the living conditions at Miami Seaquarium. SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team prepares to move Clarity

Staff started the cross-state trip with Romeo's departure at 8.30am and Juliet left just 50 minutes later. Romeo arrived at ZooTampa first at around 1.30pm and Juliet followed at around 3.55pm One of the manatees is pictured being transported

Staff started the cross-state trip with Romeo’s departure at 8.30am and Juliet left just 50 minutes later. Romeo arrived at ZooTampa first at around 1.30pm and Juliet followed at around 3.55pm One of the manatees is pictured being transported

Romeo and Juliet weigh more than 3,000 pounds and have resided at MSQ since the late 1950s. Juliet is pictured in a sling

Romeo and Juliet weigh more than 3,000 pounds and have resided at MSQ since the late 1950s. Juliet is pictured in a sling 

The animals required rescue and relocation due to lack of sufficient care at their previous facility, as reported by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clarity is pictured in the SeaWorld Orlando

The animals required rescue and relocation due to lack of sufficient care at their previous facility, as reported by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clarity is pictured in the SeaWorld Orlando

Accompanied by specialized vehicles and an experienced team of vets and animal care specialists, all three animals made the trip safely. One of the mammals, Clarity, is pictured above during her relocation

Accompanied by specialized vehicles and an experienced team of vets and animal care specialists, all three animals made the trip safely. One of the mammals, Clarity, is pictured above during her relocation

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. Romeo is pictured being placed into this new home

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. Romeo is pictured being placed into this new home

'Today is a very big day,' said Melissa Nau, the senior director of animal health at ZooTampa. 'Manatees are in the hearts of so many Floridians.' Clarity is pictured being placed into the water

‘Today is a very big day,’ said Melissa Nau, the senior director of animal health at ZooTampa. ‘Manatees are in the hearts of so many Floridians.’ Clarity is pictured being placed into the water

Each animal was set to undergo a complete health assessment over a 24-hour period, which usually involves taking blood samples and possibly pain medication, said Melissa Nau, the senior director of animal health at ZooTampa. Clarity is pictured being released into the water

Each animal was set to undergo a complete health assessment over a 24-hour period, which usually involves taking blood samples and possibly pain medication, said Melissa Nau, the senior director of animal health at ZooTampa. Clarity is pictured being released into the water

Clarity being hoisted up using a crane to be delivered to her new home

Clarity being hoisted up using a crane to be delivered to her new home

Romeo and Juliet's relocation to ZooTampa was part of a bigger operation that state and federal wildlife officials say had been in planning for months between the government and Florida-wide private care facilities. Juliet is pictured being lowered into the water.

Romeo and Juliet’s relocation to ZooTampa was part of a bigger operation that state and federal wildlife officials say had been in planning for months between the government and Florida-wide private care facilities. Juliet is pictured being lowered into the water.

Each animal was set to undergo a complete health assessment over a 24-hour period, which usually involves taking blood samples and possibly pain medication, Nau said. 

Their relocation to ZooTampa was part of a bigger operation that state and federal wildlife officials say had been in planning for months between the government and Florida-wide private care facilities. 

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, spinning in circles in the murky waters.

UrgentSeas co-founder Phil Demers claims that Romeo had 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.

US Fish and Wildlife Services confirmed that they 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 US 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 he had been alone since at least April of this year

Romeo had been kept at the Seaquarium since 1956 and campaigners said he had been alone since at least April of this year

The manatees at the facility were being moved so that they could receive appropriate care, with three of them appearing to be experiencing health issues. 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said that transporting the animals would be very risky, but necessary for the animals’ future wellbeing.  

Manatees are semi-social animals and ‘suffer psychologically when not living in pairs or groups’ – but Romeo had long been separated from his partner, and the mother of his offspring, Juliet, and had been alone since his other companions were released. 

It is not clear exactly how long Romeo had been kept isolated, or why he couldn’t be with 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.’

Drone footage showed Romeo alone in a small concrete tank in an 'off-limits' area of the park

Drone footage showed Romeo alone in a small concrete tank in an ‘off-limits’ area of the park 

Sharing the original video online, Demers wrote: ‘This video was taken on November 13, 2023, above the Miami Seaquarium.

‘Romeo, a 67-year-old manatee lives in complete isolation in ever-deteriorating conditions. We must fight for Romeo!’

Romeo’s plight was picked up by 11-time World Surf League champ Kelly Slater who called for people to put pressure on the Florida aquarium to release him.

Slater told DailyMail.com: ‘I’m always confused and sad seeing these stories. For context, I don’t know how the manatee ended up in the aquarium or if there is a reason it can’t be returned to the wild but my thoughts on it are that manatees are very social creatures and very free, roaming large distances across the state of Florida.

‘They’re the gentlest creatures in the world and such a great and recognizable mammal in our state. 

‘It seems the humane thing to do to return these animals to their rightful place in nature, along with cetaceans of all kinds which shouldn’t be in captivity at all unless terribly injured and unable to return to the wild and have quality of life.

‘I grew up swimming with and admiring manatees my whole life and it would be a feel good story to see this manatee returned safely to live out its days in the wild.’

Surfing legend Kelly Slater backed the campaign to free Romeo

Surfing legend Kelly Slater backed the campaign to free Romeo

Romeo had been at the Miami Seaquarium since 1956. He is now 67 years old

Romeo had been at the Miami Seaquarium since 1956. He is now 67 years old

The Miami Seaquarium says on its website that Romeo and his partner Juliet were ‘rescued in 1956’ and are ‘local celebrities’ at the aquarium where they had lived for 66 years. 

Romeo’s partner, Juliet, with whom he shared multiple calves, was still at the Seaquarium, but she was kept in a separate ‘celebrity’ tank on the main site. 

But Demers claims that Romeo had been kept ‘all alone’ in the ‘off-limits’ Pompano pools that are closed to the public.

He added: ‘Manatees are semi-social animals and suffer psychologically when not living in pairs or groups. But Romeo remains all alone. All the time.’

Manatees can live up to an estimated age of 60 in the wild, but it is possible for them to live longer in captivity. 

In a report release earlier this month, the USDA cited the Miami Seaquarium for alleged insufficient animal care and staffing problems – and slammed them for their treatment of Romeo. 

The report said that Romeo had been housed alone in his enclosure because the three other manatees he was living with were released back into the wild in the spring. 

And despite numerous attempts to acquire another manatee the Seaquarium did not meet the requirements to do so. 

The report noted: ‘Although numerous attempts have been made to acquire another manatee it was determined the facility did not yet meet the requirements to receive another animal. 

‘Manatees are semi-social animals and do better medically and psychologically when they are housed in pairs or groups.’

Footage from April showed Romeo alone in a tank in the Pompano pools

Footage from April showed Romeo alone in a tank in the Pompano pools

He could be seen swimming into the shaded area of the tank, while two other tanks in the off-limits area stood empty

He could be seen swimming into the shaded area of the tank, while two other tanks in the off-limits area stood empty

In March last year, the lease for the site was transferred to the Dolphin Company. Since then, the USDA has issued a series of violation warnings, and findings of animals hurt and in distress. 

The most recent report accused the aquarium of issues with inadequate veterinary care, animal handling, facilities and critical separation.

Dolphins were found to have eaten concrete and zip ties, while one had broken ribs after an attack.

The report said the facility had ‘failed to provide proper equipment or services to ensure adequate veterinary care’ and failed ‘to maintain a marine mammal enclosure in good repair and protect the animals from injury’. 

Despite the report, the November footage showed Romeo was still alone in the tiny pool surrounded by three other empty and stained tanks.

Manatees are classed as a threatened species in the US with just 7,500 in the wild in Florida. 

The slow-moving creatures swim and rest in very shallow water and are very curious, making them vulnerable to injury by boat propellers. 

Lolita, the 'loneliest whale in the world' and the star attraction at Miami Seaquarium for decades, died aged 57

Lolita, the ‘loneliest whale in the world’ and the star attraction at Miami Seaquarium for decades, died aged 57

Experts and concerned individuals had long protested against Lolita's conditions in captivity, including the size of her 80-foot long and 35-foot wide tank

Experts and concerned individuals had long protested against Lolita’s conditions in captivity, including the size of her 80-foot long and 35-foot wide tank

Romeo was being kept in the same Seaquarium in which Lolita the orca died in March this year.

Lolita was once dubbed the ‘loneliest whale in the world’ and died aged 57, just months before her scheduled retirement. 

Experts and concerned individuals had long protested against Lolita’s conditions in captivity, including the size of her 80-foot long and 35-foot wide tank, the smallest of its kind in the US.

Just 10 years after Lolita arrived at the aquarium, her companion Hugo died of an aneurysm that was caused by repeated head trauma, earning her the title of the world’s loneliest whale.

Lolita was the oldest whale in captivity at the age of 56 and performed until 2022 when she was finally retired after falling ill. 



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