Columbus Zoo takes on pair of orphaned manatees

Two orphaned manatees are recovering at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (Columbus Zoo)

POWELL — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed two rehabilitating manatee orphans early Tuesday morning. 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 Feb. 6, the day he was rescued. Heavy Falcon was found as an orphan in Crystal River, Florida and was taken to SeaWorld Orlando to begin his rehabilitation journey.

The female calf does not yet have a name and was rescued on Feb. 8, 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 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 also have access to behind-the-scenes areas as they continue to adjust to their new environment.