Florida’s manatees are under the microscope today as rescuers try an emergency feeding program to stop the record number of deaths. Meanwhile, record numbers of the gentle creatures have congregated in one warm water place. Cold water may be forcing them to congregate, making feeding easier.
As we noted here, the massive creatures have been dying at a record rate. About 1,000 died last year. Some media reports say morst of the deaths were from starvation because their normal food is dying off. Manatees eat seagrasses which have been depleted by pollution. Water pollution blocks the sunlight the grasses need to grow.
To try and save the starving creatures a feeding plan has been proposed and tested. So far it has not worked as expected but colder weather should help. The severe plight of the well-loved animals has caused the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the US Fish and Wildlifeus fish and wildlife service to step in. It is rare for agencies to step in to these situations but the record number of deaths sparked the move. Contrary to reports, the Florida ageny said most of the manatees necropsied last year died from water craft accidents. But a significant enough number died from starvation to prompt the move.
Rescuers set up a feeding station at a Florida Power and Light plant along Indian Lagoon in Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast. Manatees gather there in winter to bask in warm water released from the plant. The idea is to use a conveyer belt to distribute romaine lettuce, cabbage and other greens to the animals. The vegetables are favorites of the animals when in captivity. However, a mild winter has kept the animals from congregating as normal and they have yet to be seen eating the greens. That is expected to change. The plan has the support of the Save the Manatee Club, founded in 1981 by singer Jimmy Buffet and former U.S, Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham. The club works to protect the animals and their habitat.
There is a sign that the plan is starting to work. The club counted a record 664 of the “sea cows” basking in the warm Volusia Blue Springs recently. The water in the St. John’s River had dipped to 59 degrees, the coldest this winter.