CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Zoo and ZooTampa worked together to transfer three manatees from Tampa to their new temporary home in Cincinnati.
ZooTampa and Cincinnati Zoo are both members of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, a group dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, release and monitoring of manatees.
Cincinnati Zoo’s job as a second-stage rehabilitation facility is to provide plenty of food and veterinary care until the manatees are large enough to be returned to Florida waters.
The rehabilitation center has cared for 26 manatees since Manatee Springs opened in 2000.
“The three young females, Soleil, Calliope, and Piccolina, arrived in Manatee Springs on Saturday and are doing well,” said Kim Scott, Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of mammals. “They were rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission from different areas of southwest Florida in the spring and summer of 2021 and have been cared for together at ZooTampa’s David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center for the last year. Keeping them together for the next stage of their rehabilitation journey will help them adjust to their new surroundings.”
According to the Cincinnati Zoo, all three manatees were quite small when rescued. Soleil weighed 53 pounds, Calliope weighed 62 pounds and Piccolina weighed 44 pounds. All three required bottle feeding and intensive care for several months.
They now each weigh over 350lbs, but must weigh at least 600 lbs to be considered for release back into the wild.
“Piccolina, Calliope and Soleil have amazing stories of survival and resiliency, and each are doing extremely well. We are confident that with continued care at the Cincinnati Zoo, their successful journey will continue as they move towards the eventual goal of returning to Florida waters,” said Dr. Cynthia Stringfield, senior vice president of animal health, conservation and education at ZooTampa. “While it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to the trio, their move allows us to continue our steadfast commitment to save Florida’s iconic species as we head into the critical winter months.”
The Florida manatee population continues to struggle with watercraft injuries, severe weather, red tide, and high mortality rates because of a decline in food availability along the Atlantic coast.
Many young manatees become orphans and need human assistance. The MRP was established in order to improve the survival of the manatee species.