This great news can be heard everywhere nowadays – the sea cow or the West Indian manatee isn’t considered endangered any longer. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decided to propose to change the status of the manatee from endangered into threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In one of the news release, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior called Michael Bean said, ”Everybody can recognize the manatee very easily as it’s one of the most charismatic species. It would be very difficult to imagine that manatees are considered as endangered species. The waters of Florida are beautiful with them and we should do everything not to face this issue again.” He also says that there is still much work to do in order to bring back manatee populations. All the groups work together with a positive step to reduce the threats of their survival.
It was 50 years ago that manatees were officially listed as endangered under the ESA. Manatees are herbivorous marine mammals and they are very large with grayish-brown color. They measure up to 4 meters and weight about 590 kilograms. Sometimes people call manatees as sea cows. It’s because they are slow plant-eaters, they are peaceful and similar to cows with their nature. They usually graze on water plants in tropical seas and breed once every two years. The gestation process lasts about 12 months and it takes more than 12 months to wean the calf. In general only one calf is born during those two years. The main causes of their death are always related to humans but there can also occurr natural causes of death including adverse temperatures and disease.
Manatees have been considered to be at the brink of extinction because of overhunting and many collisions with boats. In 1991, an aerial survey began and only 1267 manatees in Florida were counted by the officials. Fortunately there exist more than 6,300 manatees in Florida nowadays. Besides this, according to the researchers there are more than 13,000 of them living in the Caribbean and northern coasts of Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia.
Currently the proposal of downlisting this species is open for everybody to comment until April 7. In the release, FWS Southeast Regional Director called Cindy Dohner said the following, ”By admitting this proposal we first of all recognize the progress of this species. We also recommit ourselves to ensure manatees’ recovery and we are the ones to do everything to achieve their long term success.”
As manatees eat sea grasses, they always come to the surface of water to breathe 15 minutes. In general their life span is about 40 years. Being unique and large marine mammals they will remain protected under Marine Mammal protection Act.
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This means that in order to hunt, fish, feed or kill manatees you have to get their permission. Hopefully, this will be a great step towards manatees’ future wellness and growth of their population!