Three orphaned manatee calves are settling in nicely to their new home at the Cincinnati Zoo. Pippen, Mathew and Miles arrived last week from SeaWorld Orlando where they'd been raised after being rescued from the wild.
"They are doing surprisingly well," says Senior Manatee Caretaker Lindsay Garrett. "They're doing better than we thought. We weren't expecting anything really bad but they've just gotten into our routine right away."
The manatees are already responding to their feeding cues and seem to really enjoy spending time in the behind-the-scenes acclimation pool. That's good because it's where zookeepers administer medical attention when needed. It's also where they feed currently.
"They're exploring our main habitat... they are kind of getting into everything and exploring, which is great. We want to see them using the habitat to its full potential," Garrett says.
The three manatees are in Cincinnati for rehabilitation so they can be released back into Florida waterways in about two years. Matthew was separated from his mother during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It's unknown why the other two were orphaned.
"Our whole role is just to keep them growing to let them get big enough to take care of themselves. When they get around 600 pounds they'll be ready for release."
Garrett says that means the manatees will likely be at the Cincinnati Zoo for two years.
"They're being very entertaining too. With three little ones, they're playing a lot. They are playing with each other. They're playing with the bubbles in our environment. They're checking out all the fish. We couldn't be more pleased with how they're settling in."