Fw: Record Number of Manatees Counted in Florida
>Martin A. Keeley
>> Record Number of Manatees Counted in Florida
>> Jennifer Mapes for National Geographic News
>> January 10, 2001
>> The Florida Marine Research Institute has hand-counted 3,276 manatees
>> in the state. Sometimes called "sea cows" because of their large,
>> unwieldy stature, the Florida manatees are endangered species.
>> Scientists have counted Florida's population of endangered sea cows.
>> At 3,276, the number of manatees found in Florida this weekend far
>> exceeded the expectations of Florida wildlife officials.
>> "We were pleasantly surprised with how high [the count] is," said
>> Bruce Ackerman, a marine mammal biologist with the Florida Marine Research
>> Institute (FMRI). "Manatees are holding their own for now."
>> From 16 planes, with help from land and sea crews, researchers
>> attempted to count all manatees living in Floridian waters.
>> Ackerman said he believes the count accurately reflects the total number
>> of manatees living in Florida. But, he said, there are always some
>> manatees that escape detection.
>> "It's a lot like the U.S. census," he explained.
>> SAVING THE MANATEE: A COMMUNITY EFFORT
>> The 3,276 manatees counted by the FMRI are a subspecies that lives
>> along Florida's coast. Other manatees inhabit Caribbean, South
>> western tropical African waters. Some of the largest populations of
>> manatee live in Belize and Brazil, Ackerman said.
>> Manatee numbers, he noted, are more likely to be going down in all
>> those other countries.
>> The future of the manatee in U.S. waters is less clear. Their
>> population seems to be slowly increasing, but they remain sensitive to human
>> activities. The manatee, which can weigh up to 1,300 pounds (600
>> kilograms), has been protected by law since 1907 and is covered by the
>> 1973 Endangered Species Act.
>> This protection serves humans in addition to the animals, according to
>> the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as manatees play an important role
>> in Florida's marine ecosystem. The sea-dwelling vegetarians eat up to
>> 100 pounds of aquatic plants a day, clearing up weed-choked waterways
>> that plague boaters.
>> Boats, however, remain the primary enemy of the slow-moving creature.
>> Each year, more than 50 manatees are killed by collisions with
>> watercraft, and many additional manatees are injured by the blades of
>> motorboats. Manatees are also threatened by habitat destruction and
>> pollution, and can be crushed by closing canal locks.
>> HOPING FOR A HIGH COUNT
>> Despite these man-made dangers, past surveys have shown a slow
>> increase in Florida's manatee population. A January 1991 aerial count showed
>> 1,268 manatees, but recent counts have reached over 2,000. Ackerman
>> said he expected this year's count to be high because of weather
>> conditions favorably to the count.
>> Water temperature plays a role in the number of manatees counted, he
>> said, as colder weather causes the manatees to move toward the waters
>> surface, where they are more easily counted. Despite this week's high
>> count, weather and other factors make it difficult to predict the
>> future of the manatee in Florida from hand counts. "You really can't say
>> these counts alone," said Ackerman. "It's difficult to estimate the
>> trend at all."
>> This year's count comes on the heels of a legal settlement between the
>> U.S. government and several pro-manatee groups. The groups alleged
>> that the government was not implementing or enforcing existing manatee
>> protections, resulting in an increased number of manatee fatalities
>> caused by watercraft.
>> Under settlement terms, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be required
>> to establish new manatee refuges and sanctuaries throughout Florida.
>> The service will also be required to regulate U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
>> construction, assuring that it will have no more than a negligible
>> effect on the manatee.
>> - - -
>> Will Manatees Be Left Out in the Cold?
>> Rescuers recently evacuated three manatees from the vicinity of a
>> non-operating power plant in Jacksonville, Florida. One of the rescued
>> females appeared to be suffering from cold trauma.
>> Fifty years ago, manatees "who have difficulty surviving when
>> temperatures dip below 68 degrees (20 C)" rarely ventured as far north
>> as Jacksonville in the winter, but warm water discharged as a
>> byproduct from power plants has created warm winter havens for the
>> sea cows, luring them to stay in their summer range.
>> As some of the older power plants in the state have been closing, or
>> not operating because their power is not needed, the possibility of
>> manatees suffering frostbite or freezing to death has become a serious
>> "It's an issue that needs to be addressed "I don't know if anyone fully
>> understands the relationship between the manatees and the warm water
>> discharge," said David Arnold of the Florida Bureau of Protected
>> Species Management.
>> So far, power plants have been cooperative, agreeing to continue
>> discharging warm water for the manatees, but if the cost of operating
>> unnecessary power plants rises, that may come into question, says
>> "The animals are surviving further north than their historical range,"
>> says Arnold. "If we remove their [warm water], they may not be able to
>> respond." Lisa Krause
Education Director, Mangrove Action Project
Gen. Delivery, Watering Place P.O.
Tel: (345) 948-0319
Fax: (345) 948-0640
web site: http://www.earthisland.org/map/map.html