For most residents of Florida in the US, the recent bout of cold weather (let's be honest, 'cold' is used loosely in Florida) has offered a refreshing reprieve from the baking hot sun. But for some of the Sunshine State's more endangered inhabitants, a small dip in temperature can spell disaster: 19 Florida manatees had to be rescued from a drain pipe last week after they swam inside to escape the cold. 

Crowds in the city of Satellite Beach cheered as the last of the animals was lifted from the pipe, which had to be cut to remove them. "These canals are all filled with manatees," said Satellite Beach fire chief Don Hughes. "I wouldn’t even begin to venture a guess as to how they got into the drainage pipes." 

Weird as this is, it isn't the first time manatees have turned to man-made structures for safety. Hundreds of the gentle giants recently gathered at the warm-water discharge of the Florida Power & Light powerplant in Riviera Beach. "They will go wherever there's warm water," explains Hughes.

It may seem strange that such a large animal is so temperature sensitive, but despite their size, manatees actually have very little body fat. Aquatic mammals that live in cold areas or deep water (like whales and seals) have developed much better insulation – unlike manatees in their tropical habitats. In fact, over 20 percent of a mantee's body is taken up by the digestive system!

As you can see in the videos above, even moving one adult manatee is a challenge ... let alone around 20! These marine giants can weigh well over 1,000lbs (600kg), and they can put up quite a fight when removed from the water. It took local police, fire and marine mammal rescue teams from both SeaWorld and Florida Fish and Wildlife working tirelessly through the night to free the stranded animals. But miraculously, aside from some minor bumps and bruises, all 19 were relocated in good condition to a nearby lagoon.

Top header image: USFWS/Flickr