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‘SwimShady’ and 2 other manatees returning to Central Florida

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CINCINNATI, Ohio – After 18 months of rehabilitation at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, three orphaned manatees are ready to return to their native Central Florida waters.

The three manatees called SwimShady, Alby, and Manhattan were brought to the zoo back in March 2021 as Florida was seeing an unprecedented rise in the number of manatees dying or needing help. A record 1,100 manatees died last year and more than 600 so far this year. Manatees are starving because pollution from agriculture, septic tanks and urban runoff is killing the seagrass on which they rely.

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The Cincinnati Zoo has been participating in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) for the past two decades and has cared for 23 manatees, including the three orphans.

Each of the three manatees were rescued in various areas of Central Florida. Alby was rescued from the Halifax River in Volusia County (2019), Manhattan was rescued from St. Augustine Beach in St. Johns County (2019) and SwimShady was rescued from Berkley Canal in Brevard County (2020).

Three Orphaned Manatees Ready to Return to Florida After Receiving Care at Cincinnati Zoo. (Cincinnati Zoo)

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of a handful of facilities outside of Florida that provide non-critical care for manatees. Providing second-stage care opens up valuable space at critical care facilities and gives Midwesterners the opportunity to learn about Florida’s favorite sea cows.

“Our primary goal, as a second-stage care facility, is to provide plenty of food and get the manatees to a healthy weight,” said Kim Scott, Cincinnati Zoo curator. “These three have consumed about 166,158 lbs. of food, mostly lettuce, during their time here and have gained a combined total of about 1000 pounds.”

SeaWorld Orlando said the three manatees will be moved back to its theme park in early October. The park said the three will be released during the winter months when the manatees can identify with a warm water source to survive for years to come.

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