POWELL, OH – One rehabilitated manatee from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and two from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have returned to Florida, and new manatees in need of tender loving care are now receiving attention from the animal experts at the two Ohio facilities. The moves, which occurred October 11 thru October 13, are part of both zoos’ participation in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Program.
With the help of DHL, the world’s leading logistics provider, the “Sea Cow Shuffle” began on Friday, October 11, when “Woodstock” (Cincinnati) and “Pixie” and “Wheezy” (Columbus) were driven to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to board a DHL flight to Florida accompanied by an animal care specialist and veterinarian from the zoos. The animals will remain under the care of manatee experts at Miami Seaquarium, SeaWorld Orlando and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, until winter when they will potentially be released near the areas where they were originally rescued.
The release of the manatees into Florida waters will occur in late winter and two of the large aquatic mammals will be outfitted with satellite tracking devices to continue to monitor their health and well being. Their movements will be tracked as part of the zoos’ participation in the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). As part of the MRP, both the Cincinnati Zoo and the Columbus Zoo are second stage rehabilitation facilities that provide a temporary home for manatees until they are ready for release back to the wild. The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees.
At each airport, the manatee crates were placed in an open-top cargo crate that was locked into the cargo hold. The manatees were kept as far away from engine noise as possible while waiting to be loaded and their crates were loaded last, so that they could be unloaded first after arriving at their destination.
“DHL is especially pleased to be part of this important manatee transfer and rehabilitation project,” said Joe Collopy, regional sales manager at the DHL Express Americas hub in Cincinnati. “DHL Express has many years of experience, successfully moving live animals around the world all in part to contribute to the zoos’ important work in protecting endangered species.”
Woodstock and her mother were victims of cold stress when they were rescued near the southwest coast of Florida on January 7, 2011. Woodstock was orphaned and taken to Miami Seaquarium when her mother did not survive. She weighed 420 pounds when she was rescued and was roughly 938 pounds when she arrived in Cincinnati in January 2013. Pixie was the smallest manatee to ever come to the Columbus Zoo for rehabilitation. She was rescued on July 24, 2010 after being spotted alone in shallow water near Daytona. She was estimated to be just a few weeks old and only 42 pounds when she was taken to SeaWorld Orlando, where she was hand reared by SeaWorld Orlando’s animal care team and cared for at the park’s rescue and rehabilitation center for more than a year before being transferred to the Columbus Zoo. Pixie is now 673 pounds. Wheezy was suffering from the effects of cold stress when she was rescued on January 15, 2011. She was one of three manatees rescued from the Desoto Canal in Satellite Beach that winter. When she arrived at the Columbus Zoo along with Pixie in November 2011, she weighed approximately 505 pounds; she now weighs 853 pounds.
The Cincinnati Zoo’s new manatee, “Abigail”, is a female, orphaned calf that was rescued from the Indian River system, near Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida, in March 2013 and has been receiving care at SeaWorld Orlando. She currently weighs approximately 275 pounds and will be joining, “Betsy”, a 22-year-old female, at Manatee Springs at the Cincinnati Zoo. Abigail will remain behind the scenes at Manatee Springs for a few days after her arrival, but the Zoo will let visitors know as soon as she and Betsy are introduced.
The Columbus Zoo’s new manatee, “Rae”, was found swimming alone in Key Largo in July, 2012 before being rescued and taken to the Miami Seaquarium. Because she was suffering from hunger, dehydration and stress upon arrival, Miami Seaquarium keepers quickly took over around the clock parental duties. Rae now weighs about 430 pounds. She has joined Stubby, a 17-year-old female, in the 300,000-gallon Manatee Coast pool at the Columbus Zoo. Rae and Stubby will have access to both pools, both on exhibit and behind the scenes, until Rae is acclimated to her new surroundings.
“Without a doubt, manatees are one of the most charismatic creatures and certainly one of both Ohio zoos most popular animals,” said Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. “We are extremely proud to be part of this conservation program and excited to welcome both Abigail and Rae to Ohio.”
The Cincinnati Zoo and the Columbus Zoo are the only two facilities outside of Florida to participate in the USFWS’ Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. The Program began in 1973 with the mission of rescuing and rehabilitating distressed and injured Florida manatees. The fundamental purpose of the program is to release these rehabilitated manatees back into their wild habitat. More information about the program is available from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (www.myfwc.com/manatee). As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), the Cincinnati Zoo and the Columbus Zoo are second stage rehabilitation facilities that provide a temporary home for manatees until they are ready for release back to the wild. The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at www.wildtracks.org.
The endangered Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.