Swimshady, Alby, and Manhattan among 12 manatees returned to natural habitat in a day
CINCINNATI, OH (February 14, 2023) – Three manatees rehabilitated at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden were part of an unprecedented event yesterday that included a total of 12 manatees from multiple Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) facilities being released at Blue Spring State Park, a vital warm-water habitat for manatees and one of the largest winter gathering sites for this species in Florida.
“Being part of this historic event is so exciting,” said Lindsay Garrett, one of two Cincinnati Zoo manatee keepers who were on site to assist with the release. “Returning manatees to their native waters is the whole point of the MRP partnership and getting to see SwimShady, Alby, and Manhattan swim away is about as good as it gets. We cared for these manatees for 18 months to get them ready for this moment!”
Cincinnati Zoo’s job as a second-stage rehabilitation facility is to provide plenty of food, primarily lettuce, and veterinary care until the manatees are big and strong enough to be returned to Florida waters. The manatee team has cared for 26 manatees, including the three current Manatee Springs residents.
“Over the past several years, we have been called upon to rescue an alarmingly high number of injured, sick and starving manatees off the Florida coastline,” said Monica Ross, Chairman of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership and Director of Manatee Research and Conservation for Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute. “Through the efforts of the MRP partners, I am thrilled that we were able to return the highest number of manatees to their natural environment in a single day.”
The 12 animals that were part of the successful release yesterday are:
- Alby: A small, 51-pound orphan rescued in 2019. He was rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando, before being transported to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for longer term rehabilitation. He was returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
- Manhattan: An orphan rescued in fall of 2019, initially rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando before being transported to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for full rehabilitation. He was returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
- Swimshady: An orphan rescued in late 2020. He was brought to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation before being transported to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for continued rehabilitation. He was then returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
- Asha: An orphan calf rescued in early 2021, who completed her rehabilitation at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
- Scampi: A small calf who was rescued in 2019 and completed her rehabilitation at Miami Seaquarium, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT (Walt Disney World Resort).
- Ferret: An orphan calf who was rescued in early 2021 and rehabilitated by Miami Seaquarium.
- Finch: An orphan calf rescued in early 2021, who completed his rehabilitation at Miami Seaquarium.
- Artemis: A very small, 51-pound orphan calf rescued in summer 2020. She completed her rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando.
- Bianca: A calf of an injured mother, rescued in spring 2021. She was rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando.
- Inigo: A nine-foot adult male rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in 2021 due to UME-related causes. He completed his rehabilitation at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. After suffering a boat strike soon after his release in August 2022, he was rescued a second time and completed his rehabilitation at both Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and SeaWorld Orlando.
- Lilpeep: An orphan calf rescued in the spring of 2021 and transported to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation, then to Aquarium Encounters for continued rehabilitation. He was returned to SeaWorld Orlando for pre-release preparation.
- Maximoff: An orphan calf rescued in early 2021 and rehabilitated by SeaWorld Orlando.
All animals will wear GPS tracking devices to allow researchers the ability to monitor manatee movement and ensure their acclimation to their natural habitat for the next year. The data collected through routine behavior monitoring is critical to understanding how orphan manatees adapt to the natural habitat and find warm water for winter survival without the skills they should have learned from their mothers. Monitoring will also be critical to the continued understanding of how manatees are adjusting to the fluctuating habitat conditions they need for survival and enable animal care specialists to ensure young animals are learning migration routes and to better treat animals suffering from malnutrition or starvation due to the ongoing unusual mortality event (UME).
Rescue, rehabilitation and release made possible through MRP partners and affiliates: Aquarium Encounters, Brevard Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Walt Disney World Resort, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Miami Seaquarium, Save the Manatee Club, SeaWorld Orlando and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service