We would like to provide an update on the status of Buffett, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium’s resident Florida manatee, and provide some insight into the decisions being made in regard to his current and future care.

Mote continues to believe strongly that it is in Buffett’s best interest to not remain by himself with no other manatee companionship, and we’re pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) have also determined that this is what is in Buffett’s best interest.

Mote has been in ongoing discussions with FWS, FWC, and the MRP regarding how to best achieve the shared goals for Buffett’s future. All facilities in the U.S. that rehabilitate and/or house manatees are permitted by FWS. FWS governs and manages all manatees in human care, in cooperation with FWC and MRP, and is the entity that is ultimately responsible for decisions about manatee transfers and placement.

FWS, FWC, and MRP have made significant progress in deciding where and with whom Buffett will reside. Although there are many moving parts, these decisions are continuing to be thoroughly evaluated by all parties. Once Mote knows more details on a final FWS decision, an update will be announced.

The process of planning Buffett’s future, involving many partners and factors, is complex:

●      Buffett was born in human care at the Miami Seaquarium and may not thrive outside of human care.

  • Previous attempts and trials of other manatees born in human care being released led to poor outcomes, often resulting in death (Adimey et al. 2016).

●      Under the direction of FWS, manatees are not permitted to cohabitate with manatees of the opposite sex, to avoid them reproducing under human care.

  • Strategic planning by FWS, FWC, and MRP occurs when determining where manatees will be rehabilitated and/or placed permanently in order to maintain females and males separately. For this reason, Buffett may only reside with male manatees.

●      FWS, FWC, and MRP have concluded, and Mote agrees, that it is in Buffett’s best interest to be introduced to another large male long-term or non-releasable manatee as a companion.

  • One of the challenges in determining placement and companions for manatees is space limitations within manatee facilities as most are full of manatees being rehabilitated, and also the considerations of compatibility and management of adult males.
  • Mote is working diligently to plan for and prepare for any decision made in the interest of Buffett’s future.

Although there are a multitude of factors impacting the decision, finding a definitive plan for Buffett is Mote’s number one priority. During Mote’s recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection on April 18, Mote was found to be in compliance with USDA animal care regulations, and Buffett was found to be in good care and condition.

In addition, Mote continues to exceed the standards of the USDA and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and continues to work with all partners to ensure Mote continues to provide Buffett with the highest quality care from their experienced veterinarians and biologists.

Mote’s dedicated animal care team closely monitors Buffett for any behavioral changes since not having a companion. Buffett continues to exhibit all of his normal behaviors, including his typical behavior of swimming through his exhibit and using his muzzle (nose) to stop on the glass to turn around and swim in the opposite direction. While many visitors may interpret this face press behavior as a “manatee kiss” on the window, manatees don’t have very good brakes, and this is his way of stopping to turn around. This behavior is not new for Buffett, as he has exhibited it over the 28 years he has been at Mote. Through Mote’s rigorous behavioral observation program, it has been found that Buffett’s behavior is consistent and maintained, even compared to when he was previously housed with another manatee. Mote continues to use the best available science-based methods to monitor and evaluate Buffett’s behavior to be able to address any sudden changes or abnormal behaviors promptly, should they arise.

Thank you for your ongoing support as Mote continues to keep Buffett’s best interests as their top priority.