As part of the effort to help save the manatees and help protect their marine habitat — a major draw in attracting visitors who enjoy outdoor activities — the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority is now an Official Adoptive Parent of Gator.
Gator the manatee was adopted in February through the Save the Manatee Club.
“We are truly grateful and honored to be able to adopt Gator and do everything we can to help save our precious manatees,” Georgia Turner, executive director of WVTAA, said in a news release. “The manatees are an integral part of our West Volusia community, and partnering once again with Save the Manatee Club to help protect their habitat is one of the most important things we can do.”
The authority’s first manatee adoptee, Volusia, unfortunately passed away in April 2020 in Lake Dexter north of Blue Spring State Park. She was 10 years old.
Gator is a frequent visitor to Blue Spring State Park — a popular manatee winter refuge in West Volusia due to its year-round temperature of 73° Fahrenheit. He was first identified in 2011 when he was seen on a Save the Manatee Club webcam chasing and playing with an alligator, thus earning him his name.
Gator’s exact birthdate is not known, but it’s believed he was among a group of yearling manatees seen at Blue Spring during the 2010-11 winter season. He returned the following November and continues to visit — often arriving early and leaving late for the season. He’s even made a couple of summer visits.
He’s said to be a bit of a runt, remaining small in size but not personality, as he’s very playful. Unfortunately, Gator has suffered two boat hits, leaving him with nine total propeller cuts and a large skeg cut down his right rear side. Those marks make him easy to spot.
Funds from the Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-a-Manatee program go toward helping to protect manatees and their habitat. To be adopted, the manatee must have an identifying scar so it can be recognized; must have a sighting history — meaning it comes back to the same area for at least a few years in a row — and it should have an interesting story.
Save the Manatee Club is the world’s leading manatee conservation organization. For 41 years, it has improved the lives of many manatees, assisted in valuable research, and protected the habitats manatees call home for future generations by aiding in the recovery and protection of the manatees and their aquatic ecosystems throughout the world. Manatees are found in freshwater, estuarine and nearshore marine environments.
The West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority’s mission is to develop and support marketing and advertising programs that bring increased tourism to this area, and to demonstrate the desirability of West Volusia as a tourism destination. West Volusia offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy parks, pristine natural beauty, historical homes and award-winning restaurants within 14 distinct communities.