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Rescued Manatees Return Home after Rehab at Columbus Zoo

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: October 21, 2020 4:35 pm

manatee columbus zoo

Tostone the manatee during the return journey to Florida

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

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have moved two manatees back to Florida where they will be released to the wild after completing their rehabilitation.


Manatees Bananatee and Tostone began the move back to Florida on Monday night. They traveled with members of the zoo’s animal care team who confirmed they arrived safely at the Miami Seaquarium. Here they will complete the final phase of their rehabilitation before returning to the wild.


“It is always difficult for our devoted team to say goodbye to animals who have been in our care, but this is also a time to celebrate because the successful rehabilitation of Bananatee and Tostone is a true testament to the positive impact we’ve had not only on the lives of individual manatees, but also the manatee population as a whole. Bananatee and Tostone represent the 30th and 31st manatee that the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has rehabilitated since Manatee Coast opened in 1999, and we are extremely proud to be a part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership, working to help protect manatees’ future,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf.

manatee columbus zoo

A manatee is hoisted out of the pool ready for transport

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

With the departure of these two manatees one remains at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.


Bananatee and Tostone were both rescued in Florida. Bananatee was rescued as an orphan on July 27th, 2018. Initially he was taken to the Miami Seaquarium where he was estimated to be 9 months old and weighed 19kg (42lbs).


Tostone was rescued from the Lake Worth Lagoon in Riviera Beach, Florida On February 28th, 2019. At time of his rescue he was estimated to be 8 months old and was showing signs of cold stress.

manatee columbus zoo

Bananatee the manatee during the return journey to Florida

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

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Both manatees moved to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on April 25th, 2019. When bananatee moved to the aquarium he weighed 102kg (225lbs) which is still small for a manatee which may grow up to 907kg (2,000lbs).

As he was not yet mature he was fed milk while he transitioned on to the adult manatee diet of lettuce. Thanks to this care when he left the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium he weighed 298kg (657lbs). When Tostone left he weighed 194kg (427lbs).

Bananatee and Tostone were initially rescued by the Miami Seaquarium. They were part of a group affectionately known as the “banana squad” (which also included two other manatees, Chiquita and Plantaina, who were rescued around the same time). The name bananatee was inspired by the banana which is fed to manatees when they arrive. Tostone is the name of a a side dish consisting of twice-fried sliced/smashed plantains).

manatee columbus zoo

A manatee with its keeper at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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

Now that these two manatees have removed to Florida there is now only one manatee at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. This is Stubby who was rescued after sustaining extensive injuries during a boat strike. As a result of this she is deemed un-releasable. Despite this she is assessed every five years to see if she could be released. Until this occurs she remains at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium where she acts a surrogate mother for the rescued manatees.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium work as part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP). They are a second stage rehabilitation facility and provide a temporary home for manatees prior to release.

Manatees are at risk as a result of exposure to algal blooms, cold stress, disease and boat strikes, crushing by flood gates and entanglement in fishing gear.

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

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