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‘Ding’ Darling manatee exhibit gets funding boost

By Staff | Jul 18, 2011

An artist rendering of the forthcoming Marvelous Manatees Exhibit, which will open next spring in the refuge’s free Education Center.

To further the educational value of the articulated manatee skeleton that the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge acquired a couple of years ago for the Education Center, the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) applied this year for a grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND).

In April 2011, the WCIND board members unanimously approved $57,500 for the enhanced Marvelous Manatees Exhibit; the Lee County Board of Commissioners approved the grant at a recent meeting.

Work will begin in October on the exhibit, which will include suspended models of a life-sized manatee and her calf, interpretive signage, and a number of hands-on activities including a CSI-type forensic area similar to what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses.

Charitable gifts to DDWS from the McCabe and Vanderbilt families made it possible to have the skeleton of a local manatee articulated and installed. The grant from the WCIND will significantly upgrade the exhibit, which will be accessible free-of-charge to Education Center visitors.

“Our mission at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and education” said Refuge Manager Paul Tritaik. “Education-wise, this exhibit will teach the tens of thousands visitors each year to the Education Center about anatomy, bones, and specimen study, as well as issues facing the survival of the manatee as a species.”

“People will learn about the manatee, fall in love with the special creature, and want to protect it,” said DDWS Executive Director Birgie Vertesch. “This is very exciting, and we are honored the WCIND chose to support this important conservation project.”

As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop proceeds.

To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org or contact Birgie Vertesch at 239-292-0566, 472-1100 ext. 4, or director@dingdarlingsociety.org.