Manatees are warm-blooded animals with the bulky body giving it an appearance of a large floating rock. They are also known as ‘sea cows’. There are three species of manatees all of which are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the World Conservation Union. The three species are Amazonian manatee, West Indian manatee, and the West African manatee. In Florida the animal is listed as endangered species and it is protected not only under the state law but also by the federal law.
Are Manatees Endangered
Manatees make homes in shallow waters, saltwater bays, slow moving water bodies, and coastal areas. Sadly speaking, they could be very well on the road to extinction. The animal is facing number of threats most of which are associated with humans.
In the late eighteenth century, the indigenous Caribbean people hunted manatees to almost extinction. During the times of Christopher Columbus people would hunt animals excessively and later it became the established trade to kill animals.
The indigenous people used to make canoes, shoes, and war shields with manatee hides. The law enacted in 1893 and put a ban on hunting but poaching did not stop—not even today.
Many manatees died due to their collisions with propeller-driven boats and ships. Manatees are not able to hear the approaching ships because they have a frequency range of 8 – 32 kHz. There are boats which emit very low frequencies leaving manatees in a confused state.
The flood control structure built by humans is yet another cause of manatees’ death. Most manatees are drowned in canal locks.
Manatees are known to rely on the estuarine sea grass but due to the development of residents along the rivers, the manatees’ diet is disturbed. Furthermore, the chemical discharge from industries has also put manatees on the verge of extinction. These chemicals trigger toxins inside manatee’s body making them more vulnerable to serious diseases.
Unlike in the 18th century manatees are now killed unintentionally as there has never been a conflict of food between manatees and humans. It so happens that manatees often gets in the way of propeller boats.
Currently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service review the status of manatees and believe that the animals may very well lose the endangered species status. According to them manatees are no longer endangered and must be classified as threatened. In Florida, the total population of manatees has recovered from few hundreds to almost 5,000. However the annual survey conducted in Florida counted more than 6,000 manatees in total.