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Orphaned Baby Manatees Find Refuge at Columbus Zoo

Manatees (Female and Heavy Falcon) 3145 - Grahm S

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed two rehabilitating Manatees on April 24. The two new additions, one male and one female, became the 28th and 29th Manatees to be rehabilitated at the Columbus Zoo since the zoo’s involvement in the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) began in 2001.

Manatees (Group) 3412 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Manatees (Group) 3412 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credit: Grahm S. Jones/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The 143-pound male calf is named “Heavy Falcon” – a nod to the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch that took place on February 6, 2018, which was also the day he was rescued. Heavy Falcon was found as an orphan in Crystal River, Florida and was taken to SeaWorld Orlando to begin his rehabilitation journey.

The female calf does not yet have a name and was rescued on February 8, 2018 with her mother off the coast of Florida. The female calf showed signs of cold stress, while her mother was negatively buoyant. Unfortunately, the calf’s mother succumbed to her serious injuries just two days after her rescue, leaving the female calf an orphan. After also beginning her rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando with Heavy Falcon, both Manatees have stabilized and will continue to recover in Columbus before their eventual releases into Florida waters.

The two new arrivals are now living in the zoo’s 300,000-gallon Manatee Coast pool. Both Manatees will also have access to behind-the-scenes areas as they continue to adjust to their new environment.

As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a second-stage rehabilitation facility that provides a temporary home for Manatees until they are ready for release back to the wild.

See more photos of the calves below.

The only other facility that assists with rehabilitating Manatees outside of the state of Florida is the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Along with the Columbus Zoo arrivals, the Cincinnati Zoo welcomed an approximately 1-year-old orphaned female calf named Daphne last week.

Both facilities participate in the MRP and, as a result, are part of the 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 http://public.wildtracks.org/

“We are so thrilled not only to welcome these two new Manatees, but also to have the opportunity to participate in this partnership as a second-stage rehabilitation facility for Manatees,” said Becky Ellsworth, curator of the Shores region at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “Our team is eager to get to know these two new additions over the next few weeks and to continue to help all seven of the Manatees in our care grow stronger over time for their eventual releases.”

The threatened Florida Manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality, including exposure to red tide, cold stress, disease, boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

Manatee (Female) 3251 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Manatee (Female) 3251 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Manatee (Female) 3251 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Manatee (Female) 3251 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium