Manatee Calf: It's a Girl!

Burgers' Zoo's young manatee is doing well and we have good news. Officials know the gender of the youngest sprout of the Mangrove.

To determine the sex of a manatee, the distance between the opening of the erogenital opening and the anus of the animal is examined. With male manatees this opening is located in the middle of the abdomen, far from the anus. While female manatees have this opening is at the end of the abdomen, close to the anus and tail.

Burgers' Zoo had to wait a while until zookeepers could take a good look at the belly of the young manatee. There was some uncertainty for a while, but they can now state with full conviction that the young manatee is a female.

That is very positive news for the breeding program that includes these manatees. Each animal is very valuable to zoos in Europe, but at the moment there are significantly more males than females. With the arrival of this young manatee, it is possible that a new bloodline can be set up.

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Manatee Birth Caught On Camera!

Arnhem, 30th December 2021 – A West Indian manatee was born at Royal Burgers' Zoo on Thursday, December 30th at 09:18am. Father, mother and calf live in the Mangrove at the Arnhem zoo. There are only nine European zoos with manatees, housing a total of 39 animals—24 bulls, 14 cows, and Arnhem's new addition. 

Calves are more than welcome

As there are only 39 of these extraordinary mammals in Europe, calves are more than welcome as part of the European West Indian manatee population management program. Bulls are clearly in the majority, so it would be excellent news if the calf turned out to be a female. With the calf's birth, there are now three manatees living at Burgers' Zoo. 

Expensive boarders

Manatees are very demanding in terms of their environment and are expensive boarders. Together, the two adult manatees eat around 60–70 kg of food per day. Endive is their main food source—the large mammals eat around 18–22 kg of endive per adult per day. They also eat bok choi, celery, Chinese cabbage and alfalfa every day, along with a varied supply of spinach, broccoli, chicory, lettuce, Swiss chard and kale. The calf’s father was born at ZooParc de Beauval in France and is almost 20 years old, while the mother was born at Odense Zoo in Denmark and is almost 8.5 years old.

Deadly boat propellers and fishing nets

West Indian manatees are mammals, so they regularly need to surface to breathe. Manatees in the wild are often fatally injured by motorboat propellers when they lift their heads above the water to breathe. When a manatee gets stuck in a fishing net, it will die from suffocation. Fortunately, countries around the world are increasingly listing manatees as a protected species. The IUCN Red List classifies the animals as 'vulnerable'. 

Bottle Feeding a Brand New Baby Manatee at Zoo Wroclaw


The second manatee born (September 11, 2020) in Poland this year and the fourth in three years is a female! This is important for conservation programs run by zoos. There are only 8 such facilities in the Europe and 20 in the world. At the moment the mother (Ling) is not nursing, so ZOO Wrocław had to step in. The baby gets special milk formula for manatees, which Wroclaw imports from Australia.

Columbus Zoo Welcomes Pair of Orphaned Manatees

Manatees (Bananatee and Tostone) 0527 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has welcomed two young Manatees, marking the 30th and 31st Manatees to arrive at the Zoo for rehabilitation since the Columbus Zoo joined the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) in 1999. The two males, Bananatee and Tostone, were both found as orphans off of the coast of south Florida. The pair began their rehabilitation journey at the Miami Seaquarium before recently arriving at the Columbus Zoo.

Bananatee was rescued from the Indian Creek Waterway outside of Miami, FL as an orphan calf on July 27, 2018. When he was initially brought to the Miami Seaquarium, he weighed only 42 pounds. He now weighs approximately 225 pounds, which is still considered small for a Manatee, as they can weigh up to 1,300 pounds as mature adults. Since Bananatee is still under a year old, the animal care team at the Columbus Zoo will need to bottle feed him to help supplement his diet as he continues transitioning to eating lettuce.

Tostone was rescued from the Lake Worth Lagoon in Riviera Beach, FL on February 8, 2019. Tostone was also an orphan and had begun to show signs of cold stress. Upon his arrival at the Miami Seaquarium, Tostone weighed in at approximately 99 pounds and is now up to approximately 185 pounds.

Bananatee and Tostone have both joined the other three Manatees (Heavy Falcon, Carmen, and long-term resident, Stubby) at the Zoo’s 300,000-gallon Manatee Coast pool. However, while the new arrivals are still adjusting to their new environment, they will still have full access to behind-the-scenes areas.

Manatees (Bananatee and Tostone) 0639 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Manatees (Tostone and Bananatee) 0625 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Manatees (Tostone) 0471 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credits: Grahm S. Jones /Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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.

The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities, which work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released Manatees. Information about Manatees currently being tracked is available at .

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was the first program partner outside of the state of Florida and is one of only two facilities outside of Florida to care for Manatees.

“We are proud to play a role in Bananatee’s and Tostone’s rehabilitation and eventual return to Florida waters, as we have with the other 29 Manatees who we have helped to rehabilitate since 1999 through this collaborative program,” said Becky Ellsworth, curator of the Shores region at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “Being part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation program is incredibly rewarding, and each Manatee holds a very special place in our hearts as we assist them throughout their journey and work to protect the future of their species.”

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 floodgates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports field conservation projects for three of four living species of Manatees through its Conservation Fund. Providing grants to researchers on three continents (North America, South America and Africa), the Zoo contributes to rescue and rehabilitation in Florida, environmental education focused on the Amazonian Manatee in Colombia, and critical population surveys for the least known species: the West African Manatee.

Baby Manatee Born at Burgers' Zoo


The Manatee care team at Royal Burgers’ Zoo in the Netherlands was in suspense for weeks awaiting the birth of a baby West Indian Manatee. Then, early in the morning of March 19, the waiting was over: a healthy baby was born.

Manatee-calf-2Photo Credit: Royal Burgers' Zoo

At about five-and-a-half years old, the new mom is a first-time mother. Due to her inexperience, the care team is paying extra attention to how she tends to her newborn. So far, she appears to be caring for her baby properly. Manatees are mammals, and like all mammals, mothers provide milk for their young. Female Manatees’ nipples are located in the “armpits” just under the front flippers. The care team has seen the baby nursing regularly.

Burgers’ Zoo is the only zoo in the Netherlands to house Manatees.

Manatees are pregnant for about 12-14 months. There are a few outward signs when the female nears the end of her pregnancy, but these can last for weeks and are quite variable. Conducting an ultrasound on a marine mammal like a Manatee (which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds) is not practical. The care team knew they simply had to be vigilant and patient while awaiting the birth.

The newborn’s gender has not been confirmed, but the care team suspects it is a male. Manate calves nurse for up to two years, but they will nibble on solid foods, such as leafy vegetables, when they are just a few weeks old. In the wild, Manatees feed on plants, such as sea grasses, that grow in freshwater and saltwater environments.

Native to the Caribbean Sea and the eastern coastlines of North and South America, West Indian Manatees are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Just 50 years ago, there were only a few hundred Manatees remaining. Collisions with boats were a frequent cause of harm to Manatees. Today, Manatee populations have recovered and there are more than 6,000 individuals

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.

Continue reading "Orphaned Baby Manatees Find Refuge at Columbus Zoo" »

Zoo Wroclaw Welcomes First Manatee Calf


Zoo Wroclaw has been preparing for the arrival of their new Manatee calf since this past November, when it was confirmed their female was expecting.

After consultation with other zoos, keepers at Wroclaw installed a special pen in their Manatee pool. They also stocked-up on special milk formula in preparation for the possibility that new mother, Ling, might have difficulty bonding with the calf.

When Ling’s labor began on March 3rd, staff members at Zoo Wroclaw were more than prepared for the new arrival. The little female entered the world at 10:41 a.m., and the Zoo managed to capture the beautiful scene on video.

According to keepers, right after birth, the female measured about 115 cm, and weighed about 20 kg.

The new Manatee calf is the first of her kind to be born at Wroclaw, so her caretakers opted to give her a fitting name—Lavia (from the word Vratislavia).

The Zoo’s prenatal preparations proved beneficial when it became apparent to keepers that Ling was not nursing her new calf as they had hoped. Staff began utilizing the special formula soon after the calf was born.



4_DSC_2123Photo Credits: ZOO Wroclaw

Manatees are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals (also known as “sea cows”). They are found in the shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico (Trichechus manatus, West Indian manatee), the Amazon basin (T. inunguis, Amazonian manatee), and West Africa (T. senegalensis, West African manatee).

Manatees are classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN. Because they are large, slow-moving animals that frequent costal waters, they are vulnerable to hunters seeking their hides, oil, and bones. They are often accidentally hit by motorboats and sometimes become entangled in fishing nets. Due to their threatened status, captive breeding in zoos plays an important role in manatee conservation. According to Zoo Wroclaw, these docile giants live in only 19 zoological gardens in the world, including 10 in Europe.

Each calf born is treasured, and each Manatee birth is a celebrated stepping-stone to the survival of the species.

(More pics below the fold!)

Continue reading "Zoo Wroclaw Welcomes First Manatee Calf" »

Manatee Calf Charms Visitors at Beauval Zoo


Visitors to Zoo de Beauval have been enamored of a six-week-old West Indian Manatee, named Kali’na. The calf was born October 28 to her six-year-old mother, Lolita.

First-time mom, Lolita, originally gave birth to twin females. Typically, a Manatee calf will weigh around 20 kg at birth. Lolita’s calves weighed-in at 10 and 15 kg. Although veterinarians and keepers worked to save the smaller of the two females, she did not survive the first day.

Since that time, the remaining twin has been meticulously cared for by Lolita and keepers say they are both doing very well. Keepers named the new calf Kali’na in reference to a tribe native to Guyana.

2_24831306_1827833867241551_7625735601941147475_oPhoto Credits: Zoo de Beauval

The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), or "Sea Cow", is the largest surviving member of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia (which also includes the Dugong and the extinct Steller's Sea Cow). As its name implies, the West Indian manatee lives in the West Indies, or Caribbean, generally in shallow coastal areas.

The gestation period for a Manatee is 12 to 14 months. Normally, one calf is born, although on rare occasions two have been recorded. The young are born with molars, allowing them to consume sea grass within the first three weeks of birth. The family unit consists of mother and calf, which remain together for up to two years. Males contribute no parental care to the calf.

The West Indian Manatee was placed on the Endangered Species List in the 1970s, when there were only several hundred left. The species has been of great conservation concern to federal, state, private, and nonprofit organizations to protect these species from natural and human-induced threats like collisions with boats. On March 30, 2017, the United States Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, announced the federal reclassification of the Manatee from “endangered” to “threatened”, as the number of Sea Cows had increased to over 6,000. On a global scale, the species is classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Rescued Manatees 'Millennium' & 'Falcon' Land in Columbus

Manatees 9021 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Twin Manatees orphaned after their mother suffered fatal boat-related injuries arrived at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium this month as part of the zoo’s Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership.

Weighing about 100 pounds each, the twin calves were rescued from Florida waters earlier this year.  Twins are extremely rare among Manatees, making up about one to four percent of births.  The pair have been named Millennium and Falcon.

Manatees 9262 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Manatees 9077 (Falcon) - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credit:  Grahm S. Jones/Columbus Zoo & Aqaurium
The twins will join Stubby, a long-time resident of the zoo, and new arrivals Jedi and Junebug.  Manatees are very social animals and keepers expect the five to get along well. 

Most of the orphaned Manatees taken in by the Columbus Zoo and its partners are released back into the wild once they reach adulthood and are deemed able to survive on their own. 

Manatees give birth to live young and nurse their babies just like humans and other mammals.  Adults typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.  They feed only on vegetation that grows on the sea floor and move slowly, never leaving the water.  Manatees live in coastal waters, rivers, and inlets, where they may encounter motorboats or become tangled in fishing nets.  They are listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

See more photos of the twins below.

Continue reading "Rescued Manatees 'Millennium' & 'Falcon' Land in Columbus" »