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Manatees Endangerment and Conservation
Manatees may soon become the legends same as the mermaids. As the numbers of these species are decreasing day by day, it is hard to believe that these creatures will live longer. A determined effort to protect them in their marine habitat will only save these species from extinction. They are the large, bulky aquatic mammal with flippered forelimbs and a spatula-shaped tail. These species can grow up to a size of 12 feet in length and weigh up to 3500 pounds. They may have the life span of about 50 years. The diet consists mainly of vegetation, which can be 100 pounds a day. They eat by using their upper divided lip, which is very flexible to grasp and take in aquatic plants. These species are found in freshwater inlets, the coastal waters, and river mouths in warm waters of the Western Atlantic from Florida to Brazil. They are marine mammals and thus come to water surface for air-breathing like other mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals. Females of these species reach sexual maturity at about (5 to 9) years of age. However, the numbers of offspring they produce are not many. Their birth rate per year is less than their death rate. These species belong to one of the four living species in the Order Sirenia. The Order Sirenia also includes the West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, and the dugong. One of the Sirenian, named as the Steller's sea cow, became extinct in the 1700s.
Causes of Endangerment
The causes that brought these species on the threshold of the extinction are as follows:
- Powerboat Collisions
Powerboats are the greatest threat to these creatures recently. They are slow and near-surface swimmers, and as a result they collide with the propeller of the power boats and ships. And this collision is increasing at an alarming rate. A study done in 1990, says that 218 manatees, were killed in boating accidents, and many more were injured. Apart from this many bore the scars of encounters with speed boats.
The manatee has no natural predators other than human beings. In the past, these species were extensively hunted by humans for their meat, fat, and tough hides. In some parts of the Caribbean and South America, these species are still hunted for food.
- Coastal Development
The residential and commercial development along rivers and waterways has also affected the manatee population. The destruction of the habitat has damaged the estuarine seagrass communities on which these species depend. Moreover, chemical pollution has impaired the immune systems of marine mammals. As a result, they got infected by the deadly diseases.
More scientific research is needed in order to understand the manatees and their needs. A current study is being done, which is tracking these species by satellite in order to learn more about behavior. This research will help a lot to protect this species.
- Protected Areas
Manatees have been protected for a long time. The English took an important step and declared Florida a manatee sanctuary in the 1700s. The hunting of these species has been prohibited over there.