Manatee Appreciation Day!

Good morning all, is everyone well? Hopefully, you are. I wish I could say it has been a good week for us, but unfortunately, I can’t, as that would be a lie, and I was raised to always be honest and tell the truth which for the most part I have always tried to do, save for the occasional little white lie (but who doesn’t do that?). Although my mum is feeling a bit better than she was at the start of last week, she’s still struggling to get her energy back, and often at times struggling to breathe (which is mostly down to having a stuffy nose and sore throat), my dad’s car is having to be repaired again as the timing belt to do with his engine has gone and needs to be fixed which is terrible timing as we have a couple of appointments this coming week and most of the garages are booked up, luckily he’s managed to get it booked in for tomorrow at a garage we’ve never used before, so fingers crossed it can be sorted quickly! And my nephew has sadly had another accident and injured his ankle but he’s handling it like the champ he is. All these things happening have impacted my mood a lot, so my mental health has been affected big time, but even though I’m struggling myself, I find doing my blog therapeutic and I’m a huge supporter of people raising awareness about mental health as its a subject that no-one should be ashamed about.

Another subject I’m a supporter of is raising awareness regarding animals, especially those classed as vulnerable, endangered, etc…and as I recently found out it is Manatee appreciation day, a day not only just to appreciate these gentle mammals but to also raise awareness on how important it is to protect these loving creatures and their environment, and to do my part in raising awareness, I thought I would do a blog post about them and give information on how you can help (if you can) as there are a couple of ways that do not cost that you can do.

Manatee Appreciation Day is devoted to raising awareness about these quirky and massive creatures that live under the water. The harmless gentle giants of the sea are closely related to elephants with their egg-shaped heads and flat tail. They are 10 to 13 feet in length, weigh almost 1,300 pounds and, despite looking bulky, can move or swim very quickly if necessary. You can find them in slow rivers, saltwater bays, estuaries, canals, and other coastal areas, spending their lives either sleeping, eating, or traveling. They don’t have a care in the world and only need to surface occasionally to replenish their oxygen.

Affectionately known by the nickname the “sea cow”, manatees are unique and beloved but, unfortunately, they are also on the list of threatened species. The lives of manatees are under threat for a number of reasons. While hunting manatees is usually illegal in most places, they continue to be poached for their meat and hides, leaving their populations at risk. Loss of habitat is one of the reasons that manatees are struggling to survive in the oceans and seas when their natural nesting areas are destroyed due to human intrusion and development. New developments cause their natural nesting areas to be destroyed; contaminate the water with toxic sewage, manure, and fertilizers; and cause algal blooms. Manatees often fatally collide with boats and ships in the shallow waters where they need to live to feed on the seagrass, their only food resource.

It’s quite unfortunate that manatees have become endangered in recent years, mainly due to their loss of habitat. Manatee Appreciation Day was birthed by the world’s leading manatee conservation organization Save the Manatee Club, founded in 1981 by songwriter Jimmy Buffet and former U.S. senator Bob Graham. The organization works to protect the manatee and its habitat. It founded this holiday to back its mission of rescuing the slow-moving sea cows from thoughtless deadly human activities. The Save the Manatee Club continues to sponsor the day annually, offering resources and opportunities for people to get involved and help. The website provides users with access to manatee information, videos, quizzes, and more. Celebrating Manatee Appreciation Day is an ideal way to raise awareness and help these at-risk animals to have a fighting chance!

Facts

  • Manatees never leave the water but typically come up for air every 5 minutes. However, it depends on a manatee’s level of activity: when it is resting, the aquatic mammal can hold its breath for up to 20 minutes. When it is exerting great amounts of energy, a manatee may surface as often as every 30 seconds.
  • Manatees usually mull around at about 5 miles an hour, but can motor up to 15 miles per hour in short bursts. Because they are such slow-moving animals most of the time, algae and barnacles can often be found on the backs of manatees.
  • There are three species of manatee. The West Indian manatee inhabits the coastal waters of the Caribbean Sea. Its two subspecies, the Florida manatee and the Antillean manatee are both listed as “threatened” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are protected by law. Along with the West Indian manatee, the West African manatee, and the Amazonian manatee belong to the order Sirenia, which also includes the dugong (Dugong dugon) and the extinct Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas).
  • Warm water is a must for the West Indian and West African manatee species. With low metabolic rates and minimal fat protection from cold water, they stick to water that is 60 degrees or warmer.
  • West Indian and West African manatees spend their lives on the cusp between salty and fresh water. They are able to maintain the correct balance in their bodies through an internal regulation system that works with the kidney to make sure salt concentrations never get too high.
  • Manatees can’t turn their heads like we do. Manatees do not possess the neck vertebra that most other mammals have, meaning that they must turn their entire bodies if they want to look around.
  • Manatee brains are smooth (compared to our own have the familiar ins and outs of cortical folds) and the ratio of their brain to their body size is the lowest of any mammal. They may not be as clever as dolphins, but manatees can learn basic tasks, are extremely sensitive to touch, and can differentiate colors.
  • Female manatees usually have one calf every two to five years and the calf then stays and nurses for two years. Calves nurse from their mother’s teats, which are found right where the forward limbs meet the body. The calves also can start nibbling on plants at only a few weeks old.
  • If you are a mammal—whether that’s a human, giraffe, whale, or rat—then you typically have seven neck vertebrae. Only tree sloths and manatees have an irregular number of vertebrae—just six for the manatee.
  • Manatees eat more than a 10th of their weight in food every day. Manatees are herbivores, with a diet of more than 60 species of underwater, shoreline, and floating plants, but primarily eat seagrass along the sea floor. Their diet is a large part of why manatees are such good indicators of an ecosystem’s health; when manatees are thriving, it means that their immediate environment is flourishing with life.
  • In the 15th century, sea creatures like mermaids, krakens, and sea serpents were popular in common folklore. The first recorded spotting of a manatee in North America was by Christopher Columbus in 1492, who thought the manatee he saw was a mermaid. Manatees’ biological grouping as sirenians gets its name from the Greek mythological sirens—a popular type of mermaid that lured sailors through song.
  • All of the manatees’ teeth are molars, and their consistent tooth regeneration makes herbivorous grazing a breeze, especially since the grasses they eat are often riddled with sand.
  • Manatees are nearsighted. The animals can see color in the blue, green, and gray spectrum, but not in red or blue-green combinations.
  • Manatees are more closely related to the elephant than they are to other marine creatures. Each species of manatee is a member of the sirenius family, which shares a common ancestor with the elephant, aardvark, and small gopher-like hyrax.
  • Despite clocking in at a hefty 9-10ft long and weighing anywhere from 1,000-3,500 pounds, manatees are surprisingly agile. Manatees can swim vertically, upside down, barrel roll, and even do somersaults (typically reserved for playtime)!
  • Though usually unseen, manatees have five fingers and noticeable fingernails.
  • Like a camera’s aperture, their eyes close in a circular motion.
  • These marine mammals usually like sleeping upside down. After spending hours grazing underwater vegetation, manatees rest and sleep by suspending themselves upside down. They do this due to their absence of gills that help other aquatic animals breathe underwater. By sleeping upside down, manatees can sleep and breathe with ease. Since this usually happens at around noon, passing swimmers, surfers, or sailors commonly find these gentle giants sound asleep with their bodies positioned upside down. While in this state, manatees keep their brains active with unihemispheric sleep.
  • Experts dub manatees as one of the most wholesome and harmless animals in the world. While capybaras and quokkas bite some people they encounter, manatees do not attack any creatures they bump into underwater. Because of their friendly nature, some accredited centers and snorkel tours include the rare experience of swimming with manatees.
  • Baby manatees learn to swim on their own around an hour after their birth.
  • The oldest manatee on record was named Snooty. He died two days after his 69th birthday.
  • Despite living in similar habitats, alligators do not prey on manatees. The two very different animals usually lazing around in the same areas with shallow warm waters. Despite being known as aggressive predators, alligators do not prey on sea cows due to their large size, thick hides, and fast swimming when sensing danger nearby. They also give the marine mammals the right of way in the water.
  • Manatees have no natural predators in the wild but humans have played a large part in making all three species at risk of extinction. About half of West Indian manatee deaths are caused by humans, and most are due to boat collisions. Manatees are quite buoyant and use their horizontally placed diaphragm and breathing to control their buoyancy. This and their average speed of 3 to 5 miles per hour means that manatees are way too slow to escape from the path of a speeding boat.
  • Enacted in 1972, the MMPA ensures that, generally, threatened species like manatees are not to be taken from their natural habitats.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature indicated manatees as “vulnerable” under their Red List. In Florida, touching manatees can get you thrown in jail for 6 months because of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Other federal laws protecting manatees include the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Ways You Can Help

Manatees are one of the most gentle and docile marine mammals worldwide. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most vulnerable to human interference. To protect these gentle giants, here are some ways you can help manatees:

  1. Help keep manatee habitat clean– One of the best ways to help manatees and other wildlife survive is to participate in shoreline, beach, park, or roadside cleanup events in your area. If you are enjoying a day in the outdoors you are encouraged to pick up litter or discarded fishing line and dispose of it properly.
  2. Volunteer your time to educate others and help manatees – Check with local environmental organizations to see if you can volunteer or conduct a community service project that would benefit manatee conservation.
  3. Obey ALL posted waterway signs – Use FWC manatee and boating safety zone maps to plan your trips.
  4. Look out for but do not touch or remove GPS/telemetry tag units on manatees. – These animals are monitored for research purposes or for health reasons with activities conducted under a federal research permit. The tags do not cause harm and are made to break away if they become entangled.
  5. Use propeller (prop) guards appropriately if you have a guard on your vessel – Reduce your speed while using a prop guard to give manatees time to get out of your way. A slower speed also reduces the chance that the guard will harm a manatee if it is struck by the guard. (Note: Search the Internet to see the variety of prop guard designs available. The image above is an example of what a prop guard may look like—image compliments of Edward Ball Wakulla Spring State Park, Florida Park Service)
  6. Avoid traveling in seagrass or other shallow areas – where manatees may be feeding or resting. Look out for manatees and give them space.
  7. Support the cause of the holiday – by updating news about their endangered status, the causes of this, and simple fun facts with the hashtags #SaveTheManatee or #ManateeAppreciationDay.
  8. Donate – You can donate online or by phone or in other various ways, just visit https://www.savethemanatee.org/how-to-help/support-manatee-protection/ to see how.

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading today’s post, I hope it helps to raise awareness about protecting these loving gentle giants. I hope you all have a good week and I shall see you next Wednesday!

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