CINCINNATI (September 15, 2020) – The 20th manatee to be rehabilitated by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in the 20+ years that it has participated in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), will head back to his native Florida waters soon along with the other manatee that has been his companion in Manatee Springs since he arrived last October.
“Visitors will be able to see Truffleshuffle and Pippen through this Friday morning. After that we will be prepping them for departure,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s manatee curator Winton Ray. “It’s tough to see them go, but it’s also a moment to celebrate. Our role in the MRP is to rehabilitate sick, injured and orphaned manatees that have been rescued and so they can ultimately be released back into the wild.”
The two manatees will be transported to SeaWorld Orlando, accompanied by Cincinnati Zoo’s head veterinarian and one of their keepers, where they will stay until they are re-acclimated to the Florida climate and water. Truffleshuffle is likely to be released in early 2021. Pippen is smaller and may require extra time before he is ready for release.
In order to complete facility renovation and repair, the Zoo will not bring manatees back to Manatee Springs until the spring of 2021. With a few exceptions, Manatee Springs will remain open during this period so visitors can still see cool creatures like alligator snapping turtles, alligators, crocodiles, and a variety of snakes and fish.
The Cincinnati Zoo is one of two U.S. Zoos outside of Florida that participate in the MRP. “It’s an honor to participate in the MRP and to have the opportunity to help these amazing animals get a second chance at life in the wild,” said Ray. Special thanks to Chick-fil-A for supporting our efforts to rehabilitate manatees.
The Florida manatee, downgraded from endangered to threatened in 2018, is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear. As of 2016, the population was estimated to include 6,000 animals.