FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) -- It's a big day for a sea cow rescued from a Fort Lauderdale pump station in May.
On Wednesday morning, Piper the manatee was released back into the waters at George English Park after undergoing a successful rehabilitation.
The seven foot-long female was rescued by Florida Fish and Wildlife and Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue after she got stuck in a storm drain off the New River. It took responders several hours in a massive rescue operation, involving cranes and fire engines, to pull the manatee from the 15 foot deep pipe. Firefighters thought the name "Piper" fit perfectly. Those same fire fighters helped release Piper back into the wild.
"We do things all the time for people and citizen but to do something," said Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Captain Chad Robertson." "For such a docile animal that's love, it's quite rewarding," he said.
The one-year-old, 300-pound manatee suffered from scrapes and abrasions to her face, flippers and body and was transported to Miami Seaquarium for medical evaluation.
"Because it's a storm drain there were call kinds of things in there," said Miami Seaquarium veterinarian Dr. Maya Rodriguez. "She had ingested foreign bodies, had parasites and bacteria. We treated her for that, she's gained weight, over 200 pounds and here we are releasing her! She looks really good!" Rodriguez said.
After four months of care, Piper now weighs more than 500 pounds. She was released to an area in Fort Lauderdale waters where herds of manatee hang out. Rodriguez said she probably won't be alone for long.
"They can vocalize and those vocalizations will actually travel for even up to a mile," she said. "I think she's down there vocalizing and other manatees might start hearing her."
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