More than 400 Florida manatees died from the beginning 2021 fueling concerns about the future of iconic and federally threatened species. Deaths in 2021 are higher than the cumulative figure for the first two months of 2010, during a particularly cold and long winter.
Although this winter has not been so harsh, scientists are studying the causes of the sharp spike in deaths. So far, cold stress, combined with the loss of large areas of algae – the main food of manatees – appear to be the main causes of death in recent months for manatees on the central and southern Atlantic coasts. Florida.
“These tragic deaths will only increase in frequency until we address the root causes,” said Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative. Wildlife defenders, at statement. “If we don’t start taking smart steps to improve Florida’s water quality, the mismanagement of our precious water resources will continue to wreak havoc on entire ecosystems, as we saw with the loss of algae. One very unfortunate result that has never been seen until now is malnutrition and hunger among the manatees. “
While some press reports have suggested that – at the current rate –2100 manatees will die by the end of the year, experts hope that this event will soon subside.
In winter, manatees go to natural springs, power plants and other sources of warm water to shelter from the cold. Manatees can suffer from a condition called cold stress, which can be fatal when the water temperature drops below. 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Due to a variety of factors, including water pollution and algal blooms, exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural land, leaking septic systems and other causes, significant areas of algae meadows on which manatees depend have been destroyed, leaving many animals sick or starving. … … Experts expect that with warming, manatees will leave their wintering grounds with warm water and look for food elsewhere in the spring and summer.
“While some well-meaning people might think feeding the manatees can help, it will only make the problem worse,” Fleming said. “When animals are fed, they are more likely to stay where they are, putting them at greater risk of disease and hunger. Instead, people who see a sick or injured manatee, such as having swimming problems, should call Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Wildlife Hotline: 1-888-404-3922. “
Although the species recovered after being added to List of endangered species at 1970s, manatees remain vulnerable to a variety of threats, including habitat destruction, ship strikes, sea level rise and water pollution. Extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, such as the Arctic explosion last month, can also have a cooling effect on the water, causing manatees to develop cold stress and die.
“This episode is a clear reminder that manatees continue to face serious threats and need our direct intervention to survive,” said Elizabeth Neville, senior Gulf Coast spokesman for Defenders of Wildlife. “We need to maintain strong protection for this species as we work to restore and protect warm water and habitat before this happens again.”
Wildlife Advocates are working on several fronts to conserve manatees and their primary habitats, including advocating for improved storm and wastewater treatment, supporting laws and policies that protect manatees, and promoting safer waterways.
One of the notable efforts to create habitat is the work of the Defenders to restore Great Florida Riverway. This restoration will allow hundreds of manatees to access important warm aquatic winter habitats as the dam crosses Oklawah river disrupted and the natural flow of the river restored.
“Unless we work hard to restore healthy water quality and flow to our waterways, another massive death of manatees is inevitable,” Neville said.
The reported 400 deaths of manatees in 2021 raise great concern about the survival of their species in Florida first appeared in World Animal News.