A family of three manatees have returned home and were rehabilitated at ZooTampa after a very dangerous year for Florida manatees.
The three manatees, namely “Vie,” “Paddington” and “Pokey”, were returned to Florida waters three weeks ago after being put under the expert care of ZooTampa’s David A Straz Jr Manatee Critical Care Center. The trio were rescued in St. Petersburg by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after they were found suffering from cold stress last winter.
Vie, Paddington, and Pokey were returned to the TECO Manatee Viewing Center where Florida’s iconic species congregate and enjoy warm waters during very cold weather, Newsbreak reported.
2021 had been a stressful and “very dangerous” year for manatees, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, after recording over 1000 manatee deaths on that year alone.
Why manatees are dying in Florida
(Photo : Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HOMOSASSA, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 05: Manatees swim in the Homosassa River on October 05, 2021 in Homosassa, Florida.
One main reason for the manatee deaths in Florida was largely blamed on starvation. According to Patrick Rose, executive director for “Save the Manatee Club,” the largest contributing factor of this starvation was a loss of seagrasses, which is directly related to pollution.
“We’ve had such severe loss of seagrasses and that’s directly related to too much nitrogen pollution,” Rose told local news Fox4. “Whether it’s from failing septic systems to the ground water, improperly treated sewage and for fertilizers and runoffs,” he explains.
Although the FWC have started implementing several solutions, such as looking at some supplemental feeding for the first time on the east coast of Florida, the effectiveness of those solutions “have been mixed” due to warmer weather.
“They really haven’t had any significant results from that yet because we’ve had an unusually warm winter so far,” says Rose. He notes that more than three hundred manatees die in a year from red tide. Moreover, boating also contributes to manatee deaths.
Also read: New Finding Opens Door to More Ideas about the Iconic Body Form of Megalodons
Feeding the Malnourished Manatees
As an effort to save the distressed sea cows, Florida took the unprecedented step of feeding the manatees.
According to New York Times, wildlife officials have decided to provide food for the mammals, which have suffered catastrophic losses in Florida waters over the last year. “As manatee deaths spike and Florida rescue centers fill up with malnourished manatees, federal and state wildlife officials are taking an unprecedented step: They will provide food for hundreds of manatees in an urgent effort to get them through the winter.”
As mentioned previously, the program was “mixed”. Conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to meet an agreement 12 years ago, which is to establish critical protected habitats.
The lawsuit states: “Florida manatees and their habitat continue to face dire and imminent threats, including the loss of warm-water refuges and poor water quality that causes persistent harmful algal blooms and a profound loss of seagrass, a crucial food source, leading to mass starvation.”
At the moment, Florida’s rehabilitation program is limited to a section of the Indian River Lagoon, which suffered the worst die-off of the seagrasses that make up a manatee’s diet.
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