By Patrick Rose, Aquatic Biologist
Fortunately, people all over the world are fond of manatees.
The gentle, playful, easy going nature of manatees makes it so easy to like these endangered marine mammals. A little more than 3,000 of them live in Florida, but the threats they face are a constant, growing concern.
Manatees are susceptible to boat strikes from Florida’s growing numbers of boats, as boating strikes are the leading known cause of death and injury to manatees. With more than a million boats registered in Florida, together with another 400,000+ boats from other states that use Florida’s busy waterways, it is very difficult for manatees to keep from being hit. So many manatees bear the scars of boat collisions that it is the main way that researchers can keep track of individual manatees.
Not surprisingly, Florida’s human population is growing by leaps and bounds. Between 1950 and 2000, the population increased by 750 percent! More than 1,000 people move to the state each day, and an additional 85 million people visit the Sunshine State annually.
The problems, as a result of this, are many, including declining water quality and quantity. Pollutants find their way to springs, which are habitat for manatees. Red-tide deaths are also increasing. Florida’s enormous population growth could be devastating to manatees and other wildlife species as they will have few suitable places left in which to flourish.
Natural waterways are limited, and new natural water bodies cannot be created like new roads are created. All of us must learn to share the waterways safely or the future looks extremely bleak for those that depend on these aquatic ecosystems.
Save the Manatee Club, a nonprofit advocacy group, founded in 1981 by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett and former Florida governor Bob Graham, is dedicated to protecting manatees and manatee habitat for future generations. The Club sponsors three manatee adoption programs and members can follow their manatee’s progress through the organization’s newsletters.
Funds raised go toward numerous conservation and education programs. Save the Manatee Club has fought for and won strong protection measures for manatees which include a combination of slow speed zones, enforcement of those zones, education, and habitat protection.
The remaining challenges are many, yet the Club remains steadfast in its mission to ensure the manatees’ survival. Through the Club’s work over the last 25 years, manatees have become one of America’s most beloved species. Without the care people around the globe have shown for these harmless endangered herbivores we could not continue to be such a strong voice for their protection as we depend upon our adoption program for our primary source of funding.
For more information on manatees, and to adopt one, visit the Club’s web site at www.savethemanatee.org.
Adopt-A-Manatee! Go to www.savethemanatee.org/adoptpag.htm
Sign up for Paddle Tales, the free e-newsletter: www.savethemanatee.org/enews_signup.htm