The West Indian manatee is a rotund, slow-moving herbivore that lives in the shallow coastal waters of Florida, USA. Known by the popular name “sea cows” the manatee is also found throughout the Caribbean and along the northern coasts of Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. The manatee is known for slowly floating with the current, just under the surface, whilst feeding on aquatic plants and sunning themselves.
Increased pressure from hunting, habitat loss, fishing and boat strikes meant that the animals were placed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967.
A original survey of manatee numbers is 1991 recorded only 1,267 animals. A more recent survey, last year, recorded 6,300 manatee in the waters around Florida. It is estimated that in total there are around 13,000 of the animals in the wild. The population in Florida is considered the most important in their range.
The increase in numbers and recovery of the species is being credited to protection of the species, which included restrictions on fishing and boating in their habitat areas. However, recreational boating groups and tour operators are claiming that the manatee should no longer be classed as “endangered”.
These calls have led the US Fish and Wildlife Service to also call for the manatee to no longer be classed as endangered. Whilst no decision on the status has yet been made, conservation groups argue that the manatee still face major threats in Florida and due to these threats should retain their current level of protection.
The original article ‘U.S. Officials Claim Manatees No Longer Endangered And Should Be Downlisted” by Josh Davis is available here