Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manatees Need You

Who doesn't like manatees? I mean, what's not to like about these gentle giants, also known as Sea Cows. If you haven't made time to visit them in Florida, I highly recommend checking them out. They come into the inland waterways during the winter, and congregate near the coastal power plants, where the water stays nice and warm all winter long. If you are lucky, you'll get to see them stick their adorable faces up out of the water to munch on the leaves and grasses along the shore. Often you can see the calves swimming alongside their mothers. Snorkeling with them in the crystal clear water of the inland springs is amazing, but I have learned many of them aren't big fans of the bubbles created by divers, so be advised that snorkeling will usually net you a closer look at them. However, these amazing animals are endangered, so there are some important rules to follow if you plan on trying for a close encounter. You cannot touch them, feed them, or in any way disturb them, and this including blocking their path so that they have to swim around you. Sometimes, this can be difficult when you meet up with a friendly and curious one.

But, the fact is, this species is in steady decline. The two most detrimental issues to them are the destruction of the sea grasses and  underwater habitats they need for feeding, and the numerous injurious deaths caused by boaters who don't watch where they are going, or don't follow the watch their speed while traveling the Florida waterways. I have met a number of rescued manatees with horrible and permanent disfigurement and scars thanks to motor boats. It's terribly sad, because these animals truly are one of the most gentle and sweet creatures I've had the pleasure of meeting. I've been approached by several wild manatees in my day who just wanted to check me out and see what I was doing in their water. I've hand fed rescued manatees who have been through all kinds of hell and still don't mind letting a stranger feed and scratch them.

Now, manatees are in need of your help. There is a proposed dredging project on our gulf coast that keeps coming back to haunt those of us trying to help protect manatee habitats. If allowed to pass, this proposed project in Pasco County will cut a huge swath straight through Fillman Bayou, one of the best feeding grounds that manatees and many other species depend on to survive. For what? For another huge resort and more marina space, which according to the locals, is not really necessary. This proposal was already fought via petition and voted down once, but as seems to be the way any more, those proposing it have changed a few small things, and are resubmitting it again in hopes that we wouldn't notice it getting slipped through this time. We have until September 19th to sign the petition and help save manatee habitat. Please, won't you take the time to go read a little further and sign the easy petition? Every voice counts! I'm sure the manatees would thank you if they could.

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