SeaWorld Orlando transferred four manatee calves to an Ohio aquarium for rehabilitation on Saturday, freeing space to treat more of the threatened sea mammals that have been dying in Florida at an alarming rate.
The four female manatees, named Lizzo, Cardi-Tee, MaryKate and Ashley, were rescued as neonatal calves by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
According to SeaWorld, DHL Express donated its services, including the flight, to transport the manatees from the rescue and rehabilitation center to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
DHL transported the manatees in custom-built containers and they were monitored throughout the flight by a Columbus Zoo veterinarian. Its aquarium is one of two facilities outside of Florida that treat manatees.
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“Transporting animals is a precise process where everything must be executed flawlessly,” said Jon Peterson, VP of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando, Head of SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team, and Chairman of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership.
Arriving safely and settling in overnight, the four manatees join five
other manatees at the Columbus Zoo that are currently rehabilitating as part of
the manatee rehabilitation program.
This brings the total number of manatees at the Columbus Zoo to nine—the most ever housed at that facility at one time for rehabilitation.
“This transport was necessary to make additional room for rescued manatees in need of emergency critical care,” SeaWorld said in a statement. “The animals will receive care until they gain enough weight to return to Florida waters when conditions are favorable.”
More than 1,000 manatees died in Florida during 2021, mostly from starvation. Water pollution from agricultural, urban and other sources has triggered algae blooms that have decimated seagrass beds on which manatees depend.
As a result, SeaWorld said it has been getting a record number of manatees needing treatment at its center, which is one of only five critical care facilities for manatees in the U.S.