Cincinnati, OH (November 8, 2022) — ZooTampa and Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, members of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a group dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and monitoring of manatees, worked together this weekend to transfer three manatees from Tampa to their new temporary home in Cincinnati.
“The three young females, Soleil, Calliope, and Piccolina arrived in Manatee Springs on Saturday and are doing well,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of mammals, Kim Scott. “They were rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) 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.”
The three manatees were all rescued when they were quite small. Soleil weighed 53lbs, Calliope 62 lbs and Piccolina (“little one” in Italian) was the smallest at 44lbs. 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.
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. It has cared for 26 manatees, including the three new residents, since Manatee Springs opened in 2000.
“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,” stated 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.”
As the Florida manatee population continues to struggle with watercraft injuries, severe weather, red tide, and the UME (unusual mortality event) due to a decline in food availability along the Atlantic coast that started in 2020, many young manatees become orphans and in need of human assistance. That’s why the MRP was established and remains critical to the survival of this charismatic species.
“We are proud to collaborate with ZooTampa and other MRP partners to help make a difference for manatees,” said Scott. “The critical care facilities in Florida are at capacity, and by providing homes for some of the manatees that are ready for the next phase in their rehabilitation journeys we help to open up space for more rescued animals.”
Cincinnati Zoo is one of only a handful of places outside of Florida where people can see manatees and learn more about what can be done to protect them. ZooTampa is a leader in wildlife conservation in Florida and has cared for more than 500 injured, sick, and orphaned manatees. A dedicated team of animal care and medical staff tend to manatees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.