Endangered Species


(Photo: D.R. & T.L. Schrichte - Courtesy: Save the Manatee Club)

What is the problem? Once thought by sailors to be mythical sirens or mermaids, the Florida manatee, or sea cow, was one of America's most endangered species. Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas. They have no natural enemies and live 60 years or more. Sounds cool, right? It is. Except for the fact that they were almost wiped out and are still threatened despite conservation efforts. Why are they still threatened?

  • Human Impact - People in power boats cause lots of trouble for manatees.
  • Habitat Loss - Humans are getting on manatees' turf.
  • Disease - If the water's too cold, manatees get sick.
  • Pollution - Would you like to swim in polluted water?
  • Slow Reproductivity - It takes a long time to make a baby manatee (calf).

Human Impact: Power boats and manatees share the same waterways in Florida, except that the boats outnumber the manatees 500 to 1! (Not great survival odds.) Almost all manatee deaths are caused by collision with power boats (driven by people, of course) and their blade-like propellers! Manatees also die by being crushed and/or drowned in canal locks and flood control structures. (Built by... people). Manatees also die by getting entangled in nets or other fishing gear or by eating fish hooks. (Tossed in the water by... people!) Because manatees swim in relatively shallow water, close to shore, they are more likely to meet up with... (you guessed it... ) people! People can totally stress out these animals by harassing them and often do (even though according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act it's illegal to bother them).

Habitat Loss: Manatees spend their lives in the water, and that water has to be warm (nothing below 68 degrees Fahrenheit). They are migratory animals - living in Florida's coastal waters during the winter and migrating as far north as the Carolinas during the summer. Manatees are herbivores (plant-eaters) and can be found in fairly shallow waters where sunlight stimulates plant growth. Development on the waterways has impacted manatees' food sources. So does run-off from fertilizers and herbicides.

Disease: Manatees need warm waters. Occasionally they experience stress due to a prolonged weather front which creates cold waters. This can produce disease in manatees.

Pollution: Manatees need to be protected from the garbage that people on boats dump into the already polluted bays and streams of southern and central Florida. It is becoming more and more difficult to protect the manatee as more people use their habitat for recreation. Chemical pollution is also a major threat for manatees.

Slow Reproductivity: The reproductive rate for manatees is slow. Female manatees are not sexually mature until five years old, and males are mature at approximately nine years of age. It is believed that one calf is born every two to five years; twins are rare. Gestation is approximately 13 months. Mothers nurse their young for a long period and a calf may remain dependent on its mother for up to two years.

(Photo: D.R. & T.L. Schrichte - Courtesy: Save the Manatee Club)

It's the Law!

The manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which makes it illegal to:

  • harass
  • hunt
  • capture
  • kill any marine mammal

The manatee is also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 which states, "It is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass or disturb any manatee."

What You Can Do to Help!

1. Write a letter to Florida's Governor and tell him that you support strong manatee protection in the state of Florida. You can write, type, phone, Fax or e-mail. It doesn't matter whether you live in the state of Florida or not.

Govenor of Florida:

The Honorable Charlie Crist

Write The Govenor at:

Office of Govenor Charlie Crist
State of Florida
PL-05 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Call The Govenor at:

Tel (850) 488-7146
Fax (850) 487-0801

The Govenor's Website:

Email The Govenor at:

Governor Crist

2. Write your United States Senator and Congressional Representative. Tell them how important manatees are to you and ask them to support protection for manatees and their habitat and to keep other environmental laws strong.

3. Write to President Obama and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior expressing your concern about the fate of manatees and your desire that they be saved.

Write The President at:

President Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

Email The President:

[email protected]

Write The Secretary at:

Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Email The Secretary:

click here

4. Adopt-A-Manatee By adopting a manatee you help with manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts, provide manatee warning signs in Florida waterways and help produce manatee public awareness projects.

5. Check out these websites and find out what these organizations are doing to help save the manatee. Find out what you can do to work with them!

Save the Manatee

Save the Manatee Club was established in 1981 by U.S. Senator Bob Graham and singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett so the general public could participate in conservation efforts to save endangered manatees from extinction. The purpose of SMC is to promote public awareness and education; fund manatee research, rescue, and rehabilitation efforts; and lobby for the protection of manatees and their habitat. The Adopt-A-Manatee® program is the primary source of funding for SMC.

Write them at:

Save the Manatee Club
500 N. Maitland Ave.
Maitland, FL 32751

Call them at:

(407) 539-0990
(407) 539-0871 Fax
(800) 432-JOIN (5646)

Visit their web site at:

Email them at:

[email protected]

State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute is responsible for planning and implementing management activities directed towards the protection and recovery of manatees, other marine mammals, sea turtles and their essential habitats.

Write them at:

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
100 Eigth Ave. SE
St. Petersburg, FL 32701-5095

Visit their web site at:

How you can help:

Email them at:

[email protected]

(West Indian Manatee - Courtesy Save The Manatee Club)

Help other Endangered Species

Check out other Environmental Organizations



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