Posts Tagged ‘adopt-a-manatee’

Threat to Manatees Even Higher

We’ve only just begun to see the devastation wrought by the Gulf oil tragedy. Dead sea birds are the first round of images that crack open hearts. Under water, the affects are going to be insurmountable for at least a generation probably several generations, of sea life. Sea turtles will miss an entire breeding cycle. Fish and shrimp and other marine wildlife will be wiped out. One of my favorite marine mammals, with which I’ve had the joy of working/seeing and the pleasure to advocate for their protection, is the manatee.

The uncommonly cold winter already took a vicious toll on the manatees that congregate around the Florida Gulf coast…and now the oil in the waters may prevent them from getting to the fresh water springs they need to survive. For such hearty-looking animals, manatees are remarkably fragile and cannot tolerate diverse conditions. They need very specific environments to survive, much less thrive…and like every other life form, an oil-filled body of water is not the ideal.

“This year is off to a very bad start for manatees,” says Save the Manatee Club’s Executive Director, Patrick Rose.  “Florida’s harsh winter took a huge toll on them.  Now they are facing the worst oil spill in America’s history.  The spill couldn’t have come at a worse time for manatees because they are widely dispersed now and can be found along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida – in the very areas that could be most affected.”

Consider adopting a manatee, volunteering with this great charitable organization, or giving your support in other ways. We’re all going to have to give to the Gulf, and not just this summer season, but for a long time to come as the earth tries, in spite of our mismanagement, to heal.


I have been blessed in my life to have had some pretty extraordinary animal encounters. One of my favorites was being with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida two years ago.

Photo: Patrick M. Rose

Manatees are amazing creatures, gentle, curious, and misunderstood. I went kayaking with a local biologist/specialist who called them (one of my favorite terms) “Charismatic Megafauna”–I want a t-shirt that says that. They are large animals with whom people fall in love that can inspire conservation efforts for all species. I hope you are inspired.

Manatees are, for such huge creatures, quite fragile. They cannot withstand even slight changes in body temperature and have to huddle around warm water springs (and you often see them near run-off waterways at power plants where the waste water is warm). A detriment to their curious nature and slow movement is that they are too often struck by boats and boat propellers–of the manatees I saw in nature as well as in rehabilitation facilities, none were without scars caused by boat strikes. The plight of the manatee is very real and very serious–people want to play with them and they end up harassing them–swimming around them, trying to catch them, disturbing rest and feeding patterns, grabbing on and riding them, regularly separating mothers and calves, and driving them away from the warm waters they need to survive–which can quite literally mean driving them to their deaths. You’d be amazed at how clueless tourists in snorkel excursion boats can be, splashing into the water, flailing, trying to get close enough to touch a manatee despite laws and guidelines that prohibit it (for the animal’s safety and survival).

One of my favorite organizations is the Save the Manatee Club in Florida. It was started by Jimmy Buffet who was angered by the treatment of these gentle giants (I know–“gentle giant” is a hackneyed phrase, but so very apt…especially when one swims right past you, less than a foot away, like a silent gliding Volkswagen in the murky green water).

Some of the most recent study results found by the Save the Manatee Club are alarming, and I hope will inspire your support and advocacy. “Manatees remain at great risk, especially from boat strikes, which are the largest known cause of manatee deaths and the biggest threat to their long-term survival.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that a record-breaking 97 manatees were killed by watercraft in 2009 — another 12 from other human-related causes, which is a total of 109 manatees killed as a result of human activity (34% where cause of death could be determined).  Last year was the worst ever for manatees, with records broken for the total number of deaths, 429, statewide, and the number killed by boats.  In 2010, 171 dead manatees were documented in Florida waters through January 30th, with at least 128 of those deaths caused by cold stress.”

Think about a fun Valentine or Easter gift this year: Adopt-a-Manatee, and support this fragile (threatened and nearly back onto on the “endangered” species list) and beautiful animal.