ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld Orlando transferred four manatee calves to an Ohio aquarium for rehabilitation, freeing space to treat more of the threatened sea mammals that have been dying in Florida at an alarming rate.
SeaWorld said DHL Express transported the manatees from its rescue and rehabilitation center to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Saturday. DHL donated its services, including the flight.
SeaWorld said it has been getting a record number of manatees needing treatment at its center, one of only five critical care facilities for manatees in the U.S. More than 1,000 manatees died in Florida during 2021, mostly from starvation. Water pollution from agricultural, urban and other sources has triggered algae blooms that have decimated seagrass beds on which manatees depend.
“This transport was necessary to make additional room for rescued manatees in need of emergency critical care,” SeaWorld said in a statement. “The animals will receive care until they gain enough weight to return to Florida waters when conditions are favorable.”
DHL transported the manatees in custom-built containers and they were monitored throughout the flight by a Columbus Zoo veterinarian. Its aquarium is one of two facilities outside of Florida that treats manatees.