In 2000, a simple photo of an injured manatee and a veterinarian featured in a hometown newspaper captured the attention and awe of an 8-year-old girl in Colleyville, TX. The girl was Stephanie Cohen and the veterinarian was Dr. Scott Gearhart from SeaWorld Orlando.
The featured animal had suffered a skull fracture and was undergoing rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando. Interested in Florida manatees since kindergarten, Stephanie read everything she could about the endangered species, checking out masses of library books, doing school reports and projects, and even contacting Dr. Gearhart himself.
Over the next several years Stephanie Cohen made manatee conservation the focus of her life. Stephanie pledged that all funds collected from her efforts would be donated to manatee conservation and research.
During Manatee Awareness Month in 2002 SeaWorld Orlando recognized the extraordinary efforts of this amazing girl and sponsored a trip for her and her family to visit the park. It was the first time that Stephanie came face-to-face with the very animals she was working so hard to save.
Explaining the various threats posed to the species and its survival, Dr. Gearhart shared SeaWorld's history and active involvement with manatee rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts. While in Orlando, Stephanie presented a check to Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute for more than $700, all of which she earned through her efforts.
Stephanie Cohen is a testament to what one individual can do to help preserve and protect endangered wildlife. To discover more, visit www.swbg-conservationfund.org