Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Welcomes Two Orphaned Manatees

Staff Report

Powell, OH — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed two rehabilitating manatee orphans. The two new additions, one male and one female, became the 28th and 29th manatees to be rehabilitated at the Columbus Zoo since the Zoo’s involvement in the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) began in 2001.

The 143-pound male calf is named “Heavy Falcon” – a nod to the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch that took place on February 6, 2018, which was also the day he was rescued. Heavy Falcon was found as an orphan in Crystal River, FL and was taken to SeaWorld Orlando to begin his rehabilitation journey.

The female calf does not yet have a name and was rescued on February 8, 2018 with her mother off the coast of Florida. The female calf showed signs of cold stress, while her mother was negatively buoyant. Unfortunately, the calf’s mother succumbed to her serious injuries just two days after her rescue, leaving the female calf an orphan. After also beginning her rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando with Heavy Falcon, both manatees have stabilized and will continue to recover in Columbus before their eventual releases to Florida waters.

The two new arrivals are beginning to acclimate to the Zoo’s 300,000-gallon Manatee Coast pool and may be visible to the public soon. However, both manatees will also have access to behind-the-scenes areas as they continue to adjust to their new environment.

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 only other facility that assists with rehabilitating manatees outside of the state of Florida is the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Along with the Columbus Zoo arrivals, the Cincinnati Zoo welcomed an approximately 1-year-old orphaned female calf named Daphne early this morning.

Both facilities participate in the MRP and, as a result, are part of the 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

“We are so thrilled not only to welcome these two new manatees, but also to have the opportunity to participate in this partnership as a second-stage rehabilitation facility for manatees,” said Becky Ellsworth, curator of the Shores region at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “Our team is eager to get to know these two new additions over the next few weeks and to continue to help all seven of the manatees in our care grow stronger over time for their eventual releases.”

The threatened Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made 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.

About the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.

Staff Report