Orange County

4 young manatees flown from SeaWorld Orlando to Columbus Zoo for treatment

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.

READ: ‘It’s heartbreaking’: What’s being done to curb record manatee deaths

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.

Photos: 4 young manatees flown from SeaWorld Orlando to Columbus Zoo for treatment

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.

READ: ‘Stranded high & dry’: Manatee rescued along a dirt road in Florida

Water pollution from agricultural, urban and other sources has triggered algae blooms that have decimated the 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.”

WATCH: Brevard Zoo collecting donations to establish dedicated manatee rescue team

DHL transported the manatees in custom-built containers, and they were monitored throughout the flight by a Columbus Zoo veterinarian.

The Columbus aquarium is one of two facilities outside of Florida that treats manatees.

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