TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Three orphaned manatees were transferred from ZooTampa’s David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center to the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend, to prepare for winter in Florida.

Three female, orphaned calves were rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in 2021, about two months apart from each other. They have been in the care of manatee rehabilitation experts at ZooTampa ever since.

ZooTampa is one of only two facilities in the U.S. federally permitted to take in and care for orphaned manatee calves, as the West Indian manatee population in Florida continues to struggle with boat strike injuries, severe weather, red tide an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event on the state’s east coast.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a second-stage rehabilitation facility. The two zoos worked together to transfer the manatees to their new, temporary home in Ohio.

“Piccolina” was ZooTampa’s tiniest female orphan calf ever treated. She was rescued from the Gulf of Mexico near Venice in Aug. 2021, weighing just 44-lbs.

The zoo said she has been doing very well and now weighs 375-lbs.

“Calliope” arrived to ZooTampa in April 2021 after she was found in Cayo Costa Pine Sound. Her umbilical cord was still partially attached. She currently weighs over 400-lbs.

“Soleil” was rescued in June 2021 in Bradenton. She reportedly had been staying in a residential canal for several days. The zoo said she required immediately care for an infected umbilicus. She has fully recovered and weighs a 475-lbs.

“Piccolina, Calliope and Soleil have amazing stories of survival and resiliency, and each are doing extremely well. We are confident that with continued care at the Cincinnati Zoo, their successful journey will continue as they move towards the eventual goal of returning to Florida waters,” stated Dr. Cynthia Stringfield, senior vice president of animal health, conservation, and education at ZooTampa. “While it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to the trio, their move allows us to continue our steadfast commitment to save Florida’s iconic species as we head into the critical winter months.”

Kim Scott, Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of mammals, said the three female calves are doing well at their Manatee Springs facility.

Cincinnati Zoo will provide plenty of food, primarily lettuce, and veterinary care until the manatees are big and strong enough to be returned to Florida waters. The zoo has cared for 26 manatees, including its new temporary residents, since 2000.

“We are proud to collaborate with ZooTampa and other [Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership] partners to help make a difference for manatees,” said Scott. “The critical care facilities in Florida are at capacity, and by providing homes for some of the manatees that are ready for the next phase in their rehabilitation journeys we help to open up space for more rescued animals.”