Manatees are one of the most docile, harmless mammals on the planet. So many of us love them, but not enough of us help to protect them. Although many areas where they live are now protected by law, humans are still the biggest threat to their species. This is something very important to us here at Ocean Scuba Dive and also one of the reasons we have put together Project Ocean.
Below we have put together five reasons why you should adopt a manatee today and also some interesting facts about this beloved species.
Five Reasons why you Should Adopt a Manatee
1. Help Ensure there is Sustainable use of our Oceans
One of the main reasons behind the decline in our manatee numbers is the irresponsible use or our natural resources. Due to the hunting pressure, manatee numbers have declined massively over the last century, putting this harmless species at risk.
Although there are many areas now where these creatures are protected, manatees still face threats. These gentle beasts are often accidentally hit by passing motorboats and also sometimes find themselves entangled in fishing nets.
Regulation of our ocean for such events is required, and this can be supported by adopting a manatee.
2. Help Fight Ocean Pollution
Human pollution of our ocean is another major threat. Not only do manatees become very sick as a result of the pollution made by humans dumping into our rivers and oceans, but also the ecosystem that supports them is damaged in the process as well.
People are often blinded by the things they cannot see, ocean pollution is one of those things. What is ocean pollution? You are able to help the manatee population by adopting one today and using that money to help go towards lobby governments to regulate change.
3. Help Fight Against Climate Change
As many of us know, climate change is not only a threat to the manatee. It’s much bigger than that, and also a threat to us human beings. Although we all know about the different effects of global warming on mankind, a lot less is known about the impact it has on our ocean life.
Climate change is already making a huge impact on underwater food chains, which is most certainly going to cause lasting damage to all different kinds of species, including manatee. This is a global emergency and we must act and do something about it now, before it is too late. By adopting a manatee you will play a part of the solution to help us make a difference.
4. Help Protect the Manatees
Manatees face a variety of man made threats. These include boat collisions, hunting, toxic red tides and also habitat destruction. Due to their slow movements and their size, they are also vulnerable to hunters seeking their hides, oil and even bones.
Although Manatee Awareness Month is celebrated every November in Florida and other parts of the world, efforts to help save the manatees should be made throughout the year. If you choose to adopt a manatee, you will be one of the people responsible for providing the funds to ensure more protected areas in key marine life habitats.
One of the best ways to protect the manatees and other marine species is to help establish marine habitats that are then protected from human activities. It’s these habitats that provide sanctuary and enable the manatee numbers to recover. It is not easy trying to convince governments to prevent people from making a living but that is exactly what has to happen if we are to ensure that manatee populations stay and maintain healthy.
Each donation will help to reduce the threats to these beloved creatures and also help create a better environment for them all to live in.
5. Adopting a Manatee makes a Great Gift Idea
Manatees are one of the most docile, defenceless creatures there is. With their gentle, slow moving nature, there’s no doubt why these mammals are loved by so many. Think about it, have you ever come across someone who doesn’t like them? Give the give of giving back with this great scuba diving gift or for anyone who loves manatees.
They spend most of their days eating and sleeping. Manatees have no natural predators nor do they have enemies. If anything, man is the only real enemy that manatees have and now both the manatees and also the environment they live in are classified as vulnerable.
Adopt a manatee today and I can assure you, they will thank you for it!
5 Facts about Manatees
- Manatees belong to the Sirenia animal order. Within this animal order there are four living species - the West Indian manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the West African manatee and the dugong – also all referred to as “sea cows
- Manatees are Herbivores. Manatee are able to eat about ten percent of their own body weight of food every day. And they love it eat, in fact they spend most of their day doing just that!
- Manatees can grow up to 4 metres in length. That’s about the size of a small car! Manatee are also known to weigh up to around 590 kilograms, as much as the weight of two cows! Female manatee are often much larger and heavier than the males.
- Manatees often used to be mistaken for Mermaids! Many different encounters made by explorers such as Christopher Columbus with creatures described as mermaids are actually believed to have been with manatees.
- Manatees are not related to any other marine animals. That’s right, in fact, scientists believe that its closest relative is the elephant! Some scientist think that this is why manatees upper lips are like mini-versions of elephant trunks, and also why they are able to grab hold of plants and pull them into the mouth just like an elephant does.
Did You Know?
The manatee is not actually related to any other marine animal. In fact, its closest relative is the elephant! Scientists have this theory that about 60 million years ago, the manatee evolved from a four legged land animal. This could explain why the West Indian and African Manatees have up to four toe nails on their flippers – similar to an elephants toe nails.
Frequently Asked Questions about Manatees
Are Manatees Endangered?
Prior to 2010, over the years there were steady gains in the manatee population. Then a devastating number of over more than 700 manatees died in 2010 and then in 2013 a further 830 manatees died. With an overall population of around 5,000 manatees, that is nearly 20 percent of their entire species wiped out in a single year. Although the manatee population is on the rise, and now currently classified as a vulnerable species and no longer listed as endangered on the IUCN red list, you may have asked, why are manatees endangered over the past years? And here is the answer. Human beings.
Manatees have no natural predators in the wild, but human beings were the cause of making all three species of manatee at the risk of extinction. Various human activities threaten manatees and their population. Lines and fishing nets can cause manatee’s injuries which can later lead to serious infections. Around half of the West Indian manatee deaths are caused by us humans. Most of them are due to boat collisions.
Although no longer endangered, it is so important that we continue to support the manatee’s and help increase their population. We have already seen a loss of one of these beautiful creatures, the largest member of the order Sirenia - the Steller’s sea cow. This mammal is now classified as extinct. The Steller’s sea cow, believed to have lived in the waters off of Japan was driven to extinction by human activity. The Steller’s sea cow were often hunted and then slaughtered for its meat and leather. There is also known to have been disruption to their habitat causing the kelps which they fed on to disappear.
Nowadays, in some areas, the local governments have protected manatee zones and have also adopted slow speed zones where manatee are known to habitat certain areas. In the state of Florida a free Manatee Alert Mobile App is available for people to use. In the year 1979, Bob Graham - then-Florida Governor, designated November as Manatee Awareness Month. Every governor of the state since has renewed the proclamation.
How Many Species of Manatee are there?
There are three different species of manatee. The Amazonian manatee, West Indian manatee, and the West African manatee. All of which are considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Where do Manatee Live?
There are three different types of species of manatee and each are distinguished primarily by where they live. The African manatee swims along the west coast and rivers of Africa, the West Indian manatee ranges along the North American east coast from Florida to Brazil and the Amazonian manatee species inhabit the Amazon River.
Manatees are usually found in the shallow coastal areas and rivers where sea grass, mangrove leaves and algae are plentiful for them to graze on.
Both the West Indian manatee and the West African manatee spend their lives on the cusp between salty and fresh water. It is believed that the West Indian manatee require access to some freshwater. This is to help them stay hydrated, but they easily move between the two ecosystems.
What do Manatee Eat?
So, what does a manatee eat? Manatees are primarily herbivores, and they spend a lot of their time eating. They feed on a variety of submerged, floating, emergent and shoreline vegetation.
The manatees in Florida are known to feed on more than 60 different species of plants. These include turtle grass, manatee grass, shoal grass, mangrove leaves, various algae, water hyacinth, acorns, and hydrilla. The West African manatee is actually considered a bit of a pest as they consume fields of planted rice.
On some occasions some manatees have been seen eating foods other than plants. The Antillean manatee (West Indian Manatee), have been seen eating fish from nets and the West African manatees are known to also eat clams.
All manatees feed off the bottom, in the water column, and at the surface. Manatees are also known to crop overhanging branches, consume acorns and haul themselves partially out of the water in order to eat bank vegetation, including the leaves of mangrove trees. Manatees use their front flippers and large, flexible lips to manipulate the vegetation.
How old can Manatee get?
The West Indian manatee have no natural enemies, other than us humans. Their life expectancy is to live to about 60 years old or even more. Having said this, as like most wild animal populations, a percentage of manatee mortality is caused by natural causes of death, such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other diseases.
A high number of additional fatalities are actually human related causes. Many manatee fatalities are due to collisions with watercrafts such as motorboats. Other reasons for fatalities included manatees being drowned in canal locks or caught in flood structures, ingestion of rubbish and fish hooks and even entanglement in crab lines.
Ultimately, today in the USA one of the biggest threats the manatees face is their loss of habitat.
Are Manatee Dangerous?
Often described as gentle, slow moving animals, manatees are one of the most docile, defenceless creatures there is. They do not pose a threat to us humans in any way, manatees are not dangerous. Traits which unfortunately make them vulnerable to hunters.
Manatees have no natural predators nor do they have enemies. If anything, man is the only real enemy that manatees have. Humans often injure and even kill manatees with their boats. We are also responsible for degrading their natural habitat by blocking natural springs and building along the coastlines. These changes have accelerated sea grass loss and now both the manatees and also the environment they live in are classified as endangered.
What is the Difference between a Manatee and a Dugong?
Many people believe that Manatees and Dugongs are the same mammal. And let’s face it, a quick look on Google image search for most people won’t necessarily make this any clearer – they look pretty similar! But in reality these two mammals belonging to the same Sirenian animal order are oceans apart when it comes to location, behaviour and biology.
Let’s think about it, they are both slow moving herbivores that operate in similar ecosystems, have similar builds and look alike, however to the trained eyes of those who know, the dugong and manatee have very different characteristics.
In the Sirenia order, there are four living species - the West Indian manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the West African manatee and the dugong – also all referred to as “sea cows” and each found in a different area.
One of the main physical differences between the dugong and manatee is their tail. Dugongs have tail flukes which have pointed projections with a slightly concave trailing edge. Manatees on the other hand have a horizontal, paddle-shaped tail with only one lobe. This allows them to move up and down when they swim.