Captive animal locked in solitary confinement for a year after bloody incident

Buffett the manatee has been alone since the disturbing death of his brother.

Human hands against Buffett the manatee's tank as he peers through the glass.
There are growing calls for Buffett the manatee to be taken out of solitary confinement. Source: UrgentSeas

WARNING - DISTURBING DETAILS: An ageing manatee is languishing alone inside a tank while tourists gawk at him and take pictures. Video supplied to Yahoo shows the animal repeating the same swimming pattern and banging his snout on the viewing glass.

Marine mammal activist Phil Demers thinks the solution to the problem is clear. "He needs to be removed immediately," he told Yahoo News. "It can be done, it’s just a question of whether there's a will to do it."

Since Buffett accidentally killed his younger brother during a botched sexual encounter over a year ago, the clearly troubled 37-year-old manatee has been kept without the company of his own species at Mote Laboratory and Aquarium in Florida.

Demers blames the concrete tank's "unnatural settling" for the violent incident involving the usually docile creatures. He said details in the official government report that described the hours-long and ultimately bloody incident were "some of the worst" he's ever read. At the time, the Aquarium reported it was "redoubling" its efforts to ensure its standards "meet or exceed" animal welfare guidelines.

That report was released in July 2023. Now Demers is concerned Buffett's mental health is continuing to decline inside his pen, and he wants him out.

The Aquarium claims Buffett plays an important role as an animal ambassador. Source: Mote Aquarium
The Aquarium claims Buffett plays an important role as an animal ambassador. Source: Mote Aquarium

Unsurprisingly the Aquarium does not make mention of Buffett's isolation or his brother's death on its website. But it does highlight his importance as an "animal ambassador" and scientific research participant.

"Buffett introduces hundreds of thousands of visitors to manatees each year and helps spread the word about how you can protect threatened manatees in the wild," it says.

Finding a home for Buffett is difficult because manatees of different genders can't be put in the same tank. That's because breeding these usually docile marine mammals is now banned under state law.

After Demers advocated for 67-year-old Romeo and his former partner Juliette to be removed from Miami Seaquarium, several agencies including the US Fish and Wildlife Service were involved in this process. Romeo was kept in isolation for months in what Demers described as “Groundhog Day in hell” before he was finally rehomed in December 2023.

Demers is the founder of the UrgentSeas advocacy group which is working to end the practice of keeping marine mammals in captivity. He's been highlighting Buffet's situation to his tens of thousands of social media followers, hoping people power will hasten the animal's removal.

"This is the way I look at it. I walk up to a tank, I see a manatee swimming in a circle and it's got a problem," Demers said.

"I don't see any of the lobbyists, the government, the red tape — these guys are the problem. We can wait for the perfect utopia to open up or we can get this animal moving right the f*** now. Whose interests are we really exercising when we've delayed now for over a year before moving this social animal?

"My intention is clear. I see a grave injustice. So I'm going to show the world that we don't do this anymore." Mote Laboratory and Aquarium has been contacted for comment.

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