Cincinnati Zoo adopts orphaned female Florida manatee after mother is killed by a boat

The 1-year-old Daphne joins the zoo's three males in Manatee Springs

click to enlarge Daphne the manatee - Photo: DJJAM Photo
Photo: DJJAM Photo
Daphne the manatee

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden welcomed the latest addition to its Manatee Springs habitat: a 250-pound orphaned female manatee named Daphne.

Daphne, approximately 1 year old, will join the habitat’s three orphaned males in rehabilitation. She and her mother were rescued from Florida waters on April 9, when her mother was struck by a boat. Her mother did not survive. 

Daphne is named after conservationist Daphne Sheldrick, who specialized in raising orphaned animals and reintegrating them into their natural habitat. (Sheldrick died this past April in Kenya at the age of 84.) 

Daphne was introduced to Manatee Springs on Tuesday morning, where she was able to interact with the three males — Miles, Matthew and Pippen — currently under staff care there. According to the manatee care team, Daphne is already interacting and swimming with her new companions.

click to enlarge Daphne with Miles, Matthew, and Pippen - Photo: Provided by the Cincinnati Zoo
Photo: Provided by the Cincinnati Zoo
Daphne with Miles, Matthew, and Pippen

Director of Animal Health Dr. Mark Campbell said that the zoo agreed to take in Daphne to help SeaWorld deal with an overflow of manatees at their facilities, but only had room to take in one more. “Unfortunately, because of boat strikes and weather conditions, SeaWorld has rescued more manatees than they can care for at their facility,” said Campbell in a press release. “We are currently caring for three males, Miles, Matthew, and Pippen, so we could only accommodate one more.”

Campbell said that Miles and Matthew should be healthy enough to return to Florida next winter, but Pippen will have to stay behind for a while longer.

“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,” Campbell said in the release.

The Cincinnati Zoo and the Columbus Zoo are home to the only two facilities in the U.S. outside of Florida that participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, which helps rescue and care for injured and orphaned manatees.

With the addition of Daphne to the habitat, the Cincinnati Zoo has rescued 19 manatees since Manatee Springs opened in 1999.

At risk due to both natural causes and man-made causes of injury and mortality, the Florida Manatee was downgraded from endangered to threatened in 2017. Exposure to red tide, disease, entanglement and crushing by flood gates are all major threats to the species’ population, which was estimated to be around 6,000 in 2016.


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