Wildlife Wednesday: Manatee Awareness Month

Did you know November is Manatee Awareness Month? Manatees are the official marine mammal of Florida. Sailors once mistook them for mermaids, hence the name of the manatees’ scientific order, Sirenia. There are three species of manatees in the world: The West Indian manatee, the West African manatee and the Amazonian manatee. All are vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. But only one—the West Indian manatee—lives in the United States, where it’s federally endangered. It’s estimated less than 10,000 mature manatees remain in the wild. Collisions with boats are the single greatest threat to their survival, followed by loss of warm-water habitats. But if you like going out on the water, you can help protect them! The best tips are to keep a watchful eye for manatees or manatee signs, reduce your speed, and avoid shallow areas with seagrass beds where they could be feeding. (Photo: John Parker/Smithsonian Environmental Research Center)

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Conservation efforts have helped rescue the West Indian manatee from extinction. Since 1991, the manatee population has grown 500 percent in Florida. 

Everglades National Park in Florida is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States east of the Mississippi River, covering more than 1.5 million acres. The park was established in 1934 to protect the area’s fragile ecosystem and is home to 36 threatened or protected species including the American crocodile and West Indian manatee.

25°19′0″N 80°56′0″W

Source imagery: DigitalGlobe

The Signs As Sea-Creatures

Aries: Bull Shark; aggressive, impatient, active

Taurus: West Indian Manatee; down to earth, patient, self-indulgent

Gemini: French Angelfish; indecisive, adaptable, energetic

Cancer: European Lobster; tenacious, temperamental, vulnerable but strong 

Leo: Australian Sea Lion; confident, loyal, domineering 

Virgo: Sea Otter; intelligent, reliable, eloquent 

Libra: Hourglass Dolphins; social, graceful, narcissistic

Scorpio: Great White Shark; mysterious, strong willed, charming

Sagittarius: Blue Whale; adventurous, free-roaming, intellectual

Capricorn: Mantis Shrimp; ambitious, stubborn, wise

Aquarius: Dog-face Puffer fish; curious, imaginative, detachment

Pisces: Mandarin-fish; mellow, mystic, escapist 

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                      The Amazing Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Park wildlife includes white-tailed deer, raccoons,wild turkeys,wood ducksturtles, water snakes, American alligators, North American river otters, West Indian manatees in the winter months, crayfish, bream, bluegill,largemouth bass, alligator gar, mullet, catfish, and several types of minnows.

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West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)

The West Indian Manatee can be found in the shallow, coastal waters from the east coast of America, down through the Caribbean, all the way to Brazil. There are two sub-species, the Florida Manatee (T.m. latirostris) and Antillean (T.m. manatus), which inhabit different portions of the range. Although they are large and slow-moving they are quite agile, doing playful maneuvers like somersaults and swimming upside down. 

The species is classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. This is because there are thought to be less than 10,000 mature individuals left in the wild, with their numbers continuing to decrease. The decline is due to direct human effects, like boat collisions, as well as loss of wetland habitats for developments. In addition, loss of reliable warm water refuges and natural catastrophic events (hurricanes etc.) are also having an impact on the manatees.