The manatee is the ocean’s couch potatoes. They’re tubby marine mammals that like to rest and feed on sea grass often. When playing around, they like to body surf and do barrel rolls. Yet no matter how passive this gentle creature is, life has been unkind to the species in the past decades and only recently has there been good news for them.
In the year 1991, surveys have found out that the West Indian Manatees in Florida were only about 1,267 in number. Fortunately since then, the beloved sea cow’s number has more than doubled — it has increased 500 percent! From a measly 1,267 the Manatees in Florida are now approximately 6,300, according to Quartz. And that’s in the state alone. Overall, there are now 13,000 manatees across the Carribean and the northern coasts of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil! This is an impressive comeback for the ocean mammal.
In light of this piece of good news, it is important to know first what caused the manatee’s number to dwindle to such a small amount. Because of their innate passive and curious nature, manatees are known to approach objects that attract them. They’ve been known to swim towards boats and sadly, they either get struck by the propellers or hulls. Not many survive the collision and those that do are left with large noticeable scars.
Collision with boats is not the only thing that kills them. It is man’s fault why the manatee has become endangered. They have been hunted for their meat in West Africa and around the same area, manatees have also been caught in the nets of local fishermen. Furthermore, waterfront development in the areas where manatees live has contributed to the decrease of the species. They take shelter in warm shallow waters and residential expansions have denied the poor animals a home. Cold water temperatures are dangerous and can even be fatal to the gentle aquatic mammal.
Despite such unfavorable circumstances, the manatee’s population has risen by a staggering amount. So much so, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (or FWS) has proposed to change the status of the species from “endangered” to “threatened” last January 7.
For those not in the know, according to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (or simply ESA) the difference between the status “endangered” and “threatened” is that an endangered species is in danger of going extinct while a threatened species is likely to be endangered.
The resurgence of the population of manatees is truly an uplifting thought. Though they will still be under close protection, it feels good to know that man has taken steps to repair the damage it has done to Mother Nature.