Monday, September 29, 2003

Sea cow shuffle in the works

Zoo to release manatee; Columbus has replacement

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Hurricane is coming to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Hurricane, one of the Florida manatees that has made a home at the Columbus Zoo for the past four years, will move to the Cincinnati Zoo in November, replacing a manatee the Cincinnati Zoo will release into the wild.

The Cincinnati Zoo announced last week that Douglas, one of its two manatees, will be released near the Florida Keys later this year. He will be flown to the Miami Seaquarium Nov. 1, where he will stay for about two months to prepare him for release. That preparation includes getting Douglas adjusted to feeding on sea grasses instead of lettuce and swimming in salt water that changes temperature more often than his zoo tank.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has requested that Hurricane be transferred to keep Stoneman, the Cincinnati Zoo's other manatee, company. Manatees are social animals that enjoy being around their own kind.

Hurricane was born at the Miami Seaquarium in 1983 and lived in Homosassa Springs State Park and Epcot's Living Seas before coming to Columbus in 1999. He is a full-grown male, measuring 11 feet long and weighing more than 1,300 pounds.

Like Hurricane, Stoneman was born in captivity. Manatees born in captivity historically don't fare as well when released into the wild.

Zoos in Cincinnati, Columbus and San Diego are the only facilities outside Florida to participate in the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Program, where injured, sick or orphaned manatees are cared for then, when possible, released back into the wild.

"Stoneman won't be lonely for long," said Terri Roth, vice president of animal sciences at the zoo. "We're set up to hold two manatees."

Douglas will be fitted with a radio transmitter, and his movements after release will be tracked for the first year. He will be captured three times in that first year to make sure he's eating well and staying healthy.



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Sunday's local news report