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Rescued Manatees Moved to Columbus Zoo for Care

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: January 18, 2022 12:01 am

Rescued Manatees Moved to Columbus Zoo

A rescued manatee is pictured following its arrival at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Photo Credit: Grahm S. Jones / Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, SeaWorld and DHL Express have joined forces in an effort to rescue manatees during a period of unprecedented demand. Four manatees have been transferred from SeaWorld’s Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Orlando to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio where they will begin the next stage of their rehabilitation.

The four juvenile manatees – Lizzo, Cardi-Tee, MaryKate, and Ashley made the move to Ohio yesterday and will rehabilitate at the zoo before returning to Florida for release to the wild.

DHL express supported the efforts by providing access to their transport network to move these animals to Ohio. They were moved in custom-built, state of the art containers. On their journey they were accompanied by the Columbus Zoo staff veterinarian and an Animal Care curator.

Manatees are in crisis in Florida and the move will free up space to take in more rescues at SeaWorld's Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. This is one of only five critical centers for the manatee in the United States.

Columbus are one of only two facilities outside of Florida which care for manatees. SeaWorld and Columbus Zoo are both members of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative group of entities dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and monitoring of manatees.

Rescued Manatees Moved to Columbus Zoo

The manatees arrive in Ohio following their flight from Florida organised by DHL

Photo Credit: Grahm S. Jones / Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

SeaWorld and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are working with government agencies, and other wildlife experts on efforts to stop the decline in the population of the endangered Florida manatee.

Preliminary data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has shown that during 2021 manatee deaths totaled 1,101, almost double the five year average.

Both natural and man-made threats are facing Florida manatees which include starvation due to depletion of seagrass (their primary food source), along with cold stress, injuries from boat strikes, entanglement or ingesting of fishing gear, and other illnesses.

These threats have seen them listed as 'threatened' on the Endangered Species List and their numbers have plummeted to historically low levels.

At Columbus Zoo and Aquarium these four manatee will join the five currently housed there. This includes four rescues and long-term resident Stubby who has extensive injuries preventing her release to the wild. Instead she acts as a mentor for the rescued young.

With nine manatees on site the zoo have set a record for their largest cohort of manatees housed at the zoo at one time.

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These manatees represent number 36, 37, 38 and 39 to undergo rehabilitation at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium since 1999 when the Manatee Coast habitat opened.

All four of these manatees were rescued by the FWC with three of them having been orphans. Lizzo was the first rescue of the group having been found in July 2020 while Ashley is the most recent addition having been rescued at the end of January 2021.

Once the animals complete their rehabilitation they will be returned to SeaWorld in Orlando. SeaWorld have the ability to care for up to 40 manatees at a time in their care center. From there the animals can be returned to the wild.

Rescued Manatees Moved to Columbus Zoo

A rescued manatee is lowered in to the rehabilitation pool by carers at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Photo Credit: Grahm S. Jones / Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

“Transporting animals is a precise process where everything must be executed flawlessly,” said Jon Peterson, VP of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando, Head of SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team, and Chairman of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership.

“When you add an air component on top of the land transfer, the complexity multiplies exponentially. SeaWorld has decades of experience safely moving animals and the beauty of our partnership with DHL Express is that we both understand what’s necessary and together we won’t proceed with a transfer unless we both are 100% satisfied that every detail is covered, and conditions are perfect.”

SeaWorld worked with the International Animal Transport Association (IATA) to establish the first protocols for moving manatees by air.

“DHL is thrilled to be a part of this effort to help preserve the manatee population,” said Cain Moodie, SVP Network Operations & Aviation for DHL Express Americas. “We value the partnership we’ve established with SeaWorld and the Columbus Zoo in this endeavor. Moving manatees is an extremely complex process, and our extensive logistics planning and care ensures a safe and quick transport on the aircraft.”

Learn more about West Indian Manatees here – West Indian Manatee Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Columbus Zoo on their website – Columbus Zoo

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