Every now and then the odd collection of my interests and pastimes seems to baffle people. Take manatees: Why am I, a woman living in Washington State, passionate about the plight of the manatee, which lives nowhere near me?
I have always had a great concern and fondness for endangered creatures of all kinds. I vividly recall first becoming aware of manatees as a little girl, before much publicity was being brought to their plight. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of them before, and was fascinated by such awesomely large, perfectly gentle creatures, the corners of their mouths always turned up like little smiles. How could anything so wonderful be at risk of extinction?
Then in 2000 I got the opportunity to visit my relatives in Florida, and they took my husband and I for a short boat tour at Blue Spring State Park. We saw amazing plant life and any number of alligators, but what we really yearned to see was a manatee. There were hints that they were near—
—but it wasn’t until we got off the boat and were just standing watching the river that we saw some clamor, as a group of volunteers met a van. Out of the van the group of people hoisted a manatee which had been rescued and rehabilitated.
When this manatee was released into the water, another manatee immediately came up from the bottom of the river and nudged the newcomer, unmistakably like a greeting.
I had tears streaming down my face...I was IN LOVE with manatees!
Since then I’ve tried to find out all I can about this creature, and have been amazed. For instance, manatees are intelligent (“capable of understanding discrimination tasks, and show signs of complex associated learning and advanced long term memory.” [Gerstein, E. R. (1994). The manatee mind: Discrimination training for sensory perception testing of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus). Marine Mammals 1: 10–21.] They demonstrate complex discrimination and task-learning similar to dolphins and pinnipeds in acoustic and visual studies. [Marine Mammal Medicine, 2001, Leslie Dierauf & Frances Gulland, CRC Press]. The manatee’s closest land relation is the elephant, not the cow, despite their being called sea cows in many parts of the world. They are thought to have evolved from four-legged land animals some 60 million years ago.
With no natural predators, their “enemies” are humans. Every year many manatees (slow moving as they are and with a habitat that hugs the shoreline) are killed or injured by boat and ship strikes. Many more die from boat strikes than natural causes such as cold stress and red tide.
With humans so responsible for the grave endangerment of the manatee, we must also be responsible for their survival.
As I wrote about in a blog a few posts back, I am currently working on raising $795 for a monitor to keep track of re-released manatees. The monitor (shown here) will help the Florida-based Save the Manatee Club’s partners at Wildtracks in Belize, supporting their efforts to make sure that rehabilitated manatees are getting acclimated to the wild once they are released. This was a fundraising request specifically made of me.
Is it worth nearly $800? With so few manatees, each individual animal is of the greatest importance to the species. If the monitor helps rescue or save a single manatee, it is priceless to me.
Please consider donating directly at my YouCaring donation page. YouCaring takes no money out of your donation...zero. In addition, 1/3 of my sales will go to this important purpose until the total is met. If you have no money (I can sympathize!) please consider helping me by spreading the word about this fundraiser. The sooner we reach the goal of raising $795, the sooner the monitor can get to the important work of helping save manatees.