KEY BISCAYNE (CBSMiami) — Florida now has a few more manatees. However, these aren’t coming from another ocean, they are coming from a couple of aquariums in the Ohio River Valley.
The moves were part of both zoos’ participation in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Program.
The “Sea Cow Shuffle” began on Friday, October 11, when “Woodstock” from Cincinnati and “Pixie” and “Wheezy” from Columbus were taken to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to board the flight bound for Florida. They were accompanied by an animal care specialist and veterinarian from the zoos. The animals will remain under the care of manatee experts at Miami Seaquarium, SeaWorld Orlando and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, until winter when they will potentially be released near the areas where they were originally rescued.
Once released, their movements will be tracked as part of the zoos’ participation in the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership .
Woodstock and her mother were victims of cold stress when they were rescued near the southwest coast of Florida on January 7, 2011. Woodstock was orphaned and taken to Miami Seaquarium when her mother did not survive. She weighed 420 pounds when she was rescued and was roughly 938 pounds when she arrived in Cincinnati in January 2013. Pixie was the smallest manatee to ever come to the Columbus Zoo for rehabilitation. She was rescued on July 24, 2010 after being spotted alone in shallow water near Daytona. She was estimated to be just a few weeks old and only 42 pounds when she was taken to SeaWorld Orlando, where she was hand reared by SeaWorld Orlando’s animal care team and cared for at the park’s rescue and rehabilitation center for more than a year before being transferred to the Columbus Zoo. Pixie is now 673 pounds. Wheezy was suffering from the effects of cold stress when she was rescued on January 15, 2011. She was one of three manatees rescued from the Desoto Canal in Satellite Beach that winter. When she arrived at the Columbus Zoo along with Pixie in November 2011, she weighed approximately 505 pounds; she now weighs 853 pounds.
The Cincinnati Zoo and the Columbus Zoo are the only two facilities outside of Florida to participate in the USFWS’ Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. The Program began in 1973 with the mission of rescuing and rehabilitating distressed and injured Florida manatees. The fundamental purpose of the program is to release these rehabilitated manatees back into their wild habitat. More information about the program is available from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission