International Manatee Day focuses on conservation, protection
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatees are beloved creatures, especially here in the Suncoast. Efforts to preserve the species have taken center stage, especially as the animals dealt with the loss of their food supply.
Groups that work with manatees are urging caution to boaters. Boating accidents are the main cause of manatee deaths. Manatees can also be negatively impacted by other encounters with humans, such as touching, chasing, or interfering with mating herds. Such activities are considered harassment and are against the law.
Save the Manatee Club has issued guidelines for boaters.
- Look but don’t touch. Practice “passive observation” and observe manatees from above water and at a distance;
- When boating: become familiar with and obey posted speed zone signs; wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and see below the water’s surface; and learn and look out for telltale signs of manatees in the area, notably a swirl or flat spot on the water that is created by the motion of the manatee’s tail when it dives or swims, or a break in the water created by a manatee’s snout, back, tail, or flipper;
- Do not feed manatees or give them water; and
- When encountering a manatee while in the water, stay at least one body length away.
- Immediately report sick, injured, tagged, or orphaned manatees, or a manatee that is being harassed, to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by calling 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or to a local wildlife agenct/organization if outside of Florida.
International groups have also made signification contributions in Africa, the greater Caribbean, and South America.
Recent projects have ranged from combating invasive plants in the critical manatee habitat of Cameroon’s Lake Ossa, rescuing an illegally captured African manatee in Nigeria, supporting the rehabilitation orphaned manatee calves in Mexico and Belize, and conducting genetic studies that indicate Amazonian manatees and West Indian manatees are hybridizing in a shared section of the Amazon River in Brazil. This work is supported in part by donations through Save the Manatee Club’s International Rescue Fund and Amazon Wish List.
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