Saving manatees one paddle stroke at a time

The first annual Timucuan Paddleboard Race, held Aug. 5, raised $1,260 to support the new critical care manatee facility at the Jacksonville Zoo. 

From a crowd of 40 to 50, 21 paddleboarders launched from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on to the Ortega River to paddle approximately two miles, turning at Ortega Island.

Winners included David Slemp and Sarah Patterson, who won $500 each. The event host was Walt Quinn, and sponsors were Sadler Point Marina, Black Creek Paddlesports & Outfitters, Lake Shore Dry Dock & Marina, The Loop and the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens.

“Being involved with the Zoo, I am keenly aware of some of the new conservation efforts and projects and the new critical care facility for manatees is exactly one of those. If a sick or injured manatee is found in Jacksonville waters, the animal can now be nursed back to health locally (and released) instead of being sent to Sea World in Orlando by truck,” said Quinn, a member of the Animal Care and Conservation Board at the Jacksonville Zoo.

The critical care facility and accompanying exhibit not only treats injured animals but allows the public to view this majestic Florida mammal in an up-close and personal setting.

“Walt’s enthusiasm, drive and commitment to manatee conservation is outstanding! He is the only member of any of our board committees who also serves as a member of our Marine Mammal Response Team,” said Dan Maloney, Deputy Zoo Director/Animal Care and Conservation. “Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is proud to be associated with the Timucuan Paddleboard Race and we look forward to future community conservation events.”

Zoo staff and members of Wild Things, its young professionals group, served as volunteers at the race.

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