Manny-T, as rescuers nicknamed him, needed to gain nearly 500 lbs. before he could join a small population of manatees living in The Bahamas

You probably know the Atlantis Paradise Island thanks to the endless list of A-listers who’ve stayed in its luxe suites. But recently, one VIP visitor earned some extra-special attention from the resort’s staff.

Meet Manny-T, a wild manatee who was discovered malnourished and alone in late September in Spanish Wells, Bahamas (near the exclusive island of Eleuthera). The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization and The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources called on staff from the Atlantis to come rescue the lost “little” guy, who’d whittled down to 365 lbs. As it turns out, the Atlantis is the only resort of its kind to have an Animal Rescue & Care Facility and employ a full staff of marine mammal specialists and veterinarians, who had the tools and knowledge to nurse Manny-T back to health.

Credit: Courtesy Atlantis Paradise Island

Over the course of three months, the team fed Manny-T a daily diet of 144 heads of romaine, 24 heads of kale and four bags of spinach. (He literally ate the Bahamas out of kale, according to a rep for the resort!) But it didn’t come on a silver platter: according to Ryan Dean, director of mammal operations, staff created undersea feeders to simulate the act of foraging in the wild, so Manny-T wouldn’t become too dependent on humans for food.

Based on his unique scar pattern, scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Geological Survey determined that Manny-T came from the Tampa, Florida, area, before migrating all the way to The Bahamas. Though manatees do migrate, wind and sea changes from Hurricane Irma may have sent him further from his home than he’d planned over the course of eight to 12 long, disorienting weeks.

Credit: Courtesy Atlantis Paradise Island

But it turned out some TLC was all he needed: thanks to his care, he came back up to 840 lbs. and was cleared for release back into the wild on Jan. 9. That morning, Atlantis staff loaded him onto their boat, The Sea Keeper, and prepared to say a happy goodbye. (Check out video of the big moment above.)

Following his release — back to Spanish Wells, where a small population of manatees resides — the staff tracked Manny-T via GPS and were prepared to feed him for a few days, if necessary. But so far, the no-longer-little-guy is seemingly thriving.

“There is no better way to start the new year than seeing this manatee back in his natural habitat, where he belongs,” Ted Turner, vice president of Atlantis’ Dolphin Cay Operations, said in a release.

Credit: Courtesy Atlantis Paradise Island

The staff’s environmental work doesn’t stop there, though: all of the dolphins and sea lions on the Atlantis property are actually rescues, rehabbed following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And a portion of proceeds from guests’ marine life activity bookings goes toward the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, which has raised more than $5 million for conservation.

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