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Juliet, manatee rescued from Miami Seaquarium, dies at ZooTampa

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  Juliet the manatee, one of three sea cows that were rescued from the Miami Seaquarium late last year due to poor living conditions, has died early Sunday morning, CBS News Miami has learned. ZooTampa

MIAMI — Juliet the manatee, one of three sea cows that were rescued from the Miami Seaquarium late last year due to poor living conditions, has died early Sunday morning, CBS News Miami has learned.

ZooTampa, the facility where Juliet was transferred to back in December 2023, shared on X that the manatee had died after she went under a routine medical assessment last week, where "she exhibited health issues likely related to her advanced age."

"Juliet was a beloved animal, who captured the hearts of many worldwide. We would be contacted frequently by animal care professionals, veterinarians and even the general public who credit her for instilling their passion for these gentle sea cows," stated Dr. Cythnia Stringfield, ZooTampa's senior vice president of animal health, conservation and education. "Our thoughts are with the entire manatee community and the teams who for more than six decades have cared for her."

ZooTampa added that a necropsy will be performed to confirm the manatee's exact cause of death. The news of Juliet's death comes as the Seaquarium approaches its eviction deadline on Sunday.

Juliet was one of three manatees that were relocated to ZooTampa and another facility in Orlando after one of several inspection reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the Seaquarium for insufficient animal care and neglect, one of which involved how Juliet and the other two sea cows lacked adequate veterinary care and lived in poor living environments.

"For more than four months, Juliet had successfully adapted to her new environment in the Zoo's rehabilitation pools and was socializing with other manatees," Stringfield added.

However, Stringfield noted that there were "many aspects" of Juliet's overall health that were unknown and that she was an "unusually large" sea cow, weighing 3,045 lbs., and was estimated to be over 65 years old, making her one of the oldest known manatees.

According to ZooTampa, Juliet and her Seaquarium tankmate Romeo had been "gradually acclimating" to their new homes at the facility back in December despite the aspects of their overall health being relatively unknown at the time.

Though she did not die at the Seaquarium, Juliet is the fourth animal in nearly a year that had died in correlation with the Miami facility's poor living conditions.

Lolita the orca died from old age and multiple chronic illnesses on Aug. 18, 2023, after being held at the Seaquarium for over 50 years. She was the first marine mammal to have died. She brought mass attention to the facility's controversies, as The Dolphin Company — the Seaquarium's owner — had announced in March 2023 to relocate her to a natural sea pen in the Pacific Northwest but failed to do so in time.

Then in December 2023, Seaquarium officials announced the death of Sundance the dolphin, who had lived at the facility for over 30 years and died after "precursors of illness." Then in March of this year, Bud the sea lion was euthanized by the Seaquarium allegedly one day after Miami-Dade County officials saw the animal's "lethargic condition" during their onsite inspection.

The Miami Seaquarium has been at the ire of both county and federal governments, along with local and national animal rights activists over the past several years, but frustration with the facility has grown even more over the past several months. In separate  USDA inspection reports, the agency has cited the South Florida aquarium with multiple violations, including inadequate veterinary care and facility conditions, along with poor animal handling, sheltering and sanitation.

In one of the most shocking inspections, the USDA found another sea lion refusing to eat because of untreated cataracts and a dolphin with a two-inch nail in its throat.

MS Leisure Company, Inc., along with the Dolphin Company — who manages the Seaquarium — issued the eviction notice after Miami-Dade County officials cited numerous and significant violations of its leasing agreement relating to the animal and facility neglect allegations it faced.

Despite calls for permanent closure, the Seaquarium has remained afloat and continues operations.

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