The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has welcomed two young manatees, marking the 30th and 31st manatees to arrive at the zoo for rehabilitation since the Columbus Zoo joined the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) in 1999. The two male manatees, Bananatee and Tostone, were both found as orphans off of the coast of south Florida and began their rehabilitation journey at the Miami Seaquarium before arriving at the Columbus Zoo on April 25.
Bananatee was rescued from the Indian Creek Waterway outside of Miami, Florida, as an orphan calf on July 27, 2018. When he was initially brought to the Miami Seaquarium, he weighed only 42 pounds. He now weighs approximately 225 pounds, which is still considered small for a manatee, as they can weigh up to 1,300 pounds as mature adults. Since Bananatee is still under a year old, the animal care team at the Columbus Zoo will need to bottle feed him to help supplement his diet as he continues transitioning to eating lettuce.
Tostone was rescued from the Lake Worth Lagoon in Riviera Beach, Florida, on Feb. 8, 2019. Tostone was also an orphan and had begun to show signs of cold stress. Upon his arrival at the Miami Seaquarium, Tostone weighed in at approximately 99 pounds and is now up to approximately 185 pounds.
Bananatee and Tostone have both joined the other three manatees (Heavy Falcon, Carmen, and long-term resident, Stubby) at the zoo’s 300,000-gallon Manatee Coast pool. However, while the new arrivals are still adjusting to their new environment, they will still have full access to behind-the-scenes areas.
As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a second stage rehabilitation facility that provides a temporary home for manatees until they are ready for release back to the wild.
The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at www.manateerescue.org. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was the first program partner outside of the state of Florida and is one of only two facilities outside of Florida to care for manatees.
“We are proud to play a role in Bananatee’s and Tostone’s rehabilitation and eventual return to Florida waters, as we have with the other 29 manatees who we have helped to rehabilitate since 1999 through this collaborative program,” said Becky Ellsworth, curator of the Shores region at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “Being part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation program is incredibly rewarding, and each manatee holds a very special place in our hearts as we assist them throughout their journey and work to protect the future of their species.”
The threatened Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and manmade causes of injury and mortality, including exposure to red tide, cold stress, disease, boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports field conservation projects for three of four living species of manatees through its Conservation Fund. Providing grants to researchers on three continents (North America, South America and Africa), the Zoo contributes to rescue and rehabilitation in Florida, environmental education focused on the Amazonian manatee in Colombia, and critical population surveys for the least known species: the West African manatee.
Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.