Ohio may not be the first place you think of when it comes to rehabilitating manatees since, well, it's clearly not Florida. But the Cincinnati Zoo has welcomed a recently orphaned manatee to its grounds until she's back and ready for the naturally warmer waters of the Sunshine State.
Dubbed Daphne, after the conservationist Daphne Sheldrick, the 1-year-old manatee arrived at the zoo April 24 after she and her mother were rescued in Florida waters earlier in the month. Her mother was struck by a boat and sadly didn't survive.
Obviously a Florida-based solution would have been ideal, but it was not in the cards for Daphne.
"Unfortunately, because of boat strikes and weather conditions, SeaWorld has rescued more manatees than they can care for at their facility," Mark Campbell, the Cincinnati Zoo's director of animal health, said in a statement. "We are currently caring for three males, Miles, Matthew, and Pippen, so we could only accommodate one more."
Apart from the Cincinnati Zoo, the only other facility outside of Florida equipped to rehabilitate manatees is the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which took two manatees that arrived in Ohio with Daphne.
Daphne is already doing well with her new manatee pals. They are interacting and swimming together, as the footage below of their first day shows. They (adorably) share an underwater meal, too.
The three males arrived at the zoo in October, following a stay at SeaWorld in Orlando. Pippen was the smallest manatee to arrive at the zoo, at a mere 225 pounds.
"Miles and Matthew have been gaining weight and are on track to be released back into Florida waters next winter. Pippen was smaller when he arrived and is still about 100 pounds lighter than the others, so he will most likely stay another year. Daphne will be a good companion for him," said Campbell.
The Cincinnati Zoo, along with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a program that rescues and treats sick, injured and orphaned manatees and then returns them to the wild. The program started in 1973, and both of the Ohio zoos are second stage rehabilitation facilities. They provide temporary homes for the manatees before they're released back into the wild.