Manatees: An Endangered Species

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What is a Manatee?

Manatees are a type marine mammal often refered to as sea cows. Dispite their bulky size, manatees are graceful, docile swimmers. They use their strong and powerful tails to help them move along the bottom of the water typically at a speed of 5mph. Here, size definitely matters. Their size can range from 440 lbs to 1,300lbs.

Even in their docile manner, manatees have somehow made it on to the endangered species list. There are many factors that contriube to the rapid decline in manatees throughout the globe. Research has shown that the leading cause to the decline of the manatees is boating. When boats travel through manatee feeding grounds, habitats and nesting areas, they often dont see them as they are typically submerged underwater. When this happens, the boaters hit the manatees causing sever or fetal damage to them. This can result in injuries such as collapsed lungs, bone factures, and worse. Injurys like this can result in the manatees not being able to submerge themselves which they need to do in order to feed. My guess is you know what happens when they can not eat. You got it. Death! Other dangers to the manatee include, habitate loss and hunting.

Why should we care?

Manatees play a vital part in our marine ecosystem. Because manatees are herbivores, they feed only on plant life, specifically marine plante life. There are over 60 different marine vegitation that manatees feed off of. Because of their constant grazing through the shallow waters, vegitations is constantly being "mowed". This helps the ecosystem stay under control and helps to prevent it from overgrowing.

As we learned from our 5th grade education of the food chain, if one link in the chain is removed, it causes a domino effect on the rest of the food chain. If manatees are wiped from the food chain the rest of the chain will suffer. Not only do they help keep marine vegitation down, but they also help to fertilize the rest of the vegitation by disposal of the consumed and digested flora.

How can we help?

There are many ways that we can help this endangered speices. As stated earlier, the biggest threat to manatees are boats. By implementing manatee safe zones or "slow zones" in manatee inhabited waters, we can greatly reduce the risk of harming these docile creatures. Other simple ways that we can help spot manatees in the water to prevent injuries and death are to wear polorized sunglasses. This simple fix will help to reduce glare on the waters surface making it easier to spot manatees in the water while out boating. Another easy fix is to simply avoide shallow waters were sea grass beds are located. Because this is a popular feeding ground for manatees, avoiding it all together and staying in deeper channels while boating, will help to greatly reduce the risk of striking a manatee with your boat.

There are several organizations out there that work to protect, conserve, and rehabiliate the local manatee populations that range from Virginia o South Florida and around the Gulf Coast. By becomeing involved in one of the organization, or simply donating a few times a year, you can do your part to help a helpless speicies from dying out. We have come so close to losing this species before, lets ensure that never happens again.