A female manatee named "Daphne" is ready to return to her native Florida waters after spending 16 months at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Daphne weighed about 250 pounds when she arrived in Cincinnati in April 2018, orphaned at about one year of age. She's now upwards of 600 pounds.
"Daphne has done really well this past year," says Manatee Curator Winton Ray. "She has reached her target weight and is a candidate for early release since she experienced a winter in Florida waters before she lost her mother."
The manatee is the 19th to be cared for through the Cincinnati Zoo's rehabilitation program in it's 20 years of existence.
From Cincinnati, Daphne will be transported to SeaWorld Orlando to get acclimated. Ray estimates she could be released by the end of the year.
Three other manatee orphans, Matthew, Miles and Pippen, who arrived in October 2017, "are on track to be released in Florida next spring," the zoo says.
According to the zoo, while the Florida manatee was downgraded from endangered to threatened in 2018, it's still at risk.
"Exposure to red tide, cold stress and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees," the zoo writes in a statement. "Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear. As of 2016, the population was estimated to include 6,000 animals."