🤿 Columbus' manatee connection is clear — even in Florida
👋 Alissa here with the highlight of my recent vacation: an up-close encounter with a wild manatee.
Driving the news: I took a boat tour in Crystal River, Florida, the "Manatee Capital of the World" — and a city with an important link to Columbus.
Catch up quick: The Columbus Zoo was the first facility outside Florida to rehabilitate injured manatees with the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership, a coalition of agencies that protects the animals.
- The threatened species faces numerous challenges from boats, cold stress and starvation.
- Since 1999, the zoo has helped 32 total manatees return to the wild.
What I did: I jumped into the waters where six have been released! That includes calves Acorn and Einstein, reintroduced just last month.
How it works: Manatees retreat inland to warm, clear springs during cold months, bringing the gentle giants closer to humans — and potential threats.
- While we missed peak season, our tour still found one easygoing female in the deeper, murkier waters of Kings Bay.
- We kept a respectful distance, floating above her until she surfaced for air.
Quick take: Coming face-to-face with a 1,000-pound creature was humbling, to say the least.
The bottom line: On the ride back to shore, I shared that I'm from Columbus — the guides were well aware of our zoo's important role in manatee rescue.
- Seeing that impact firsthand was something I'll never forget.
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