Are Manatees Endangered?

By Antonia Čirjak on February 26 2020 in Environment

In case you thought manatees are an endangered species, this answer might come as a surprise: No, they are not!
  • Manatees are commonly called ''sea cows'' due to their physical appearance and the fact that they enjoy eating seagrass.
  • One of the biggest threats to their current numbers is habitat loss.
  • Manatees were once on the Endangered species list, which was in 1967.

In case you thought manatees are an endangered species, this answer might come as a surprise: No, they are not! And what a wonderful surprise that is. The West Indian Manatee was indeed classified as an endangered species, but that changed in recent years as the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service reduced their status to "threatened."

While those are fantastic news, there is still much work to be done to ensure the well being of this beautiful, gentle blob.

Peacefull Plant-Eaters

Manatees are also known by the name of "sea cows" because of their physical characteristics and fondness of seagrass. But, not many people know that manatees are also related to elephants. They did not evolve from elephants, but they share the common ancestors because they are both a part of the group of mammals called tethytheria. Sure, they are both grayish and have wrinkled skin, so that might not come as much of a surprise. Even though they are relatively large animals, weighing almost 1,200 pounds, they are surprisingly graceful in their behavior. 

There are three major species of manatees known to man. Those are the West Indian manatee, West African, and Amazonian manatee, which is also the smallest of the three species. All three of those species are under threat of extinction. The West Indian manatee, also knows as the North American manatee is the largest surviving member of the order of Sirenia.

Why Are Manatees Under Threat Of Extinction?

Back in the year 1967, Manatees were classified as endangered because they were under threat of extinction. Their status was then established by the Endangered Species Act, which was the first list of endangered species that were given federal protection. Why was the manatee endangered in the first place? The loss of habitat is one of the major threats to their survival. Manatees cannot rely on blubber to stay warm during winter like other sea mammals. When the temperature drops, manatees need to get warm, or they could die. Due to the decline of the number of natural springs, for human reasons, manatees lost one of their primary warming spots.

They also learned to rely on artificially produced warm water that is produced by power plants, but that is risky since there is always a possibility of such places being shut down. Such an unfortunate development could potentially kill a lot of manatee population since they would be stuck in water that is too cold for them to survive. 

Humans also made a negative impact on their main food source - seagrass. Developing coastlines threatens their habitat, and pollution can corrupt the water quality, resulting in a very hungry manatee with nothing to eat. They are also in danger of collision with fast-moving watercraft because they are slow swimmers and cannot dive deep enough to avoid them. Almost 100 manatees were killed just by boats in the year 2009., in Florida.

Why Is Jimmy Buffet Their Favorite Singer?

Jimmy Buffet has been helping and protecting manatees for over 35 years. The American singer/songwriter/actor helped to raise awareness about the protection of the manatee population. Along with U. S. Senator Bob Graham, he founded the Save the Manatee Club in the year 1981 and has since recorded numerous television and radio announcements and public service messages. His public activity and conservation efforts have undoubtedly helped these beautiful creatures get back on track with their humble and gentle lives.

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