Columbus manatees move to Florida

Dozens of zoo-goers, including excited children, visited the three departing manatees Dundee, Turtle and Gene for the last time today. The three are on their way to their new homes in Florida.

Preparations for the move started about two months ago. Zoo curator, Mike Brittsan, says the manatees will each be placed in large boxes lined with Styrofoam and transported to Port Columbus.

They’re not moved in water. We do wet them down. About every 15 minutes we’ll take misters and we’ll mist them. And generally we try to get them back into water as quickly as we can. It’s probably about eight hours out of water and back into water.

From there Brittsan says they’ll be flown to Orlando where Sea World workers will pick them up and take them to their new homes.

Brittsan says the zoo expects a smooth transition for the mammals with few problems.

We got a good track record with manatees. There’s always something that can go wrong. Usually it’s mechanical failures, a lot of fork lifts involved, airplanes involved, trucks breaking down.

Gene and Dundee will be moved to a zoo in Tampa. Turtle will go to Sea World in Orlando.

Turtle and Dundee will be fitted with tracking devices then released into the wild later this year at Blue Springs State Park. Another manatee from the Columbus zoo was released at that park five years ago. Comet was euthanized in January three years after being struck by a boat in Florida.

Manatee fans in Columbus will be able to see three new female manatees weighing two-thousand pounds a piece Sunday.