Monday, October 27, 2008

Endangered Species: How to Save the Florida Manatees

Known as sea cows, manatees are large gray mammals that inhabit shallow tropical waterways in Florida among other locations throughout South America and the western part of Africa. They have become icons throughout Florida as they are endangered.

As herbivores, they feed on vegetation such as turtle grass, manatee grass, shoal grass, mangrove leaves, and various strains of algae for an average of six to eight hours a day. However, there are times manatees feed on red algae, which is a toxic form of algae. Approximately 3,200 are in existence today, yet the number is decreasing significantly every year, even though federal and state laws have been established for their protection. Manatees have become endangered species from natural causes, American tourism, chemical pollution, water activities, motorized boats, and sports, entanglement in fishing lines, as well as the fishing industry. The destruction of habitat is the greatest threat.

Several laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 have been passed to protect manatee survival and protect their habitats. The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was developed in 1973 to regulate trade of wildlife animals and protect their survival. Even though these laws are great, they do not seem to provide enough protection as the manatees are slowing becoming extinct. Natural causes of manatee fatalities include the consumption of toxic algae such as red tide, diseases, predation, and cold water.

Human related causes of death are motorized boats, chemical pollution, harassing manatees, American tourism, and the fishing industry. However, the ways individuals can help protect endangered species are by traveling through manatee zones with non-motorized boats or turning the engines off. Manatees are slow moving and often submerged in the water, which result in collisions with motorized boats. Because motorists don't pay attention, boat propellers cause deep wounds on their backs that lead to nasty viral infections and/or scarring.

Coastal Florida residents can help researchers establish protected manatee areas by reporting manatee sightings. Researchers will be able to establish the different routes manatees travel and will be able to have those areas labeled as manatee zones.

Donate to a reputable manatee charity such as Save the Manatee Club. They offer a variety of ways to raise money to help with injured manatees. Sea World is also another large organization that is committed to the conservation of manatees. The staff consists of biologists and veterinarians. They rescue and rehabilitate injured manatees.

Don't litter. Help keep the beach and coastal areas clean by picking up trash or debris. Fish hooks, fishing lines, or fishing nets contribute to endangering manatees as they often get entangled.

Swimmers should not commingle with manatees. Feeding manatees is another area of concern. Manatees feed on vegetation.

Visiting zoos is a way that funds are raised for the preservation of manatees as well as manatee research.

Many different companies have created manatee products that raise public awareness and educate the public about the preservation of the Florida manatee.

No comments: