Manatees, also known as sea cows, are gentle marine mammals found primarily in warm-water habitats. These herbivorous creatures belong to the Trichechidae family, with the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), being the most common species in the United States. Specifically, the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, is native to Florida’s coastal waters and has faced significant threats to its survival in recent years. The Florida manatee was once listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act but has since been reclassified as a threatened species due to successful conservation measures.
Florida manatees are in need of increased protection, according to some animal advocates and wildlife experts. These gentle creatures are facing the risk of extinction, with almost 500 manatees having died this year, leaving only around 3,000 remaining.
A significant factor contributing to this plight is the scarcity of seagrass – the manatee’s primary food source. This shortage has led to widespread starvation among the population. As a result, the federal government is currently considering whether to alter the manatee’s status from threatened to endangered.
Some of the key threats to the Florida manatee population include boat strikes, loss of habitat, water pollution, and changes in water temperature due to climate change. Conservation efforts, led by organizations such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Save the Manatee Club, have put measures in place to minimize these risks. These efforts include improving water quality, managing boat traffic, and establishing protected areas for manatees. Manatee Awareness Month, which occurs in November each year, aims to raise public awareness and inspire further efforts to protect these unique and beloved marine mammals.