Two kayakers near Bonita Springs, Florida saw what they thought was a rock in the water as they paddled, but as they got closer learned that it was actually a distressed manatee. They had cell phones with them, so they made a call to get help and then stayed near the manatee to warn boats to stay away. (Each year a large number of manatees are struck by boats. In 2009 alone, 91 manatee deaths resulted from such accidents.) Boat accidents are the number one cause of manatee deaths in Florida, so the kayakers provided a double service by calling in for help, and guarding the animal while it was incapacitated, but still alive.
About six marine specialists and volunteers helped secure the sick marine mammal and lift it onto a truck for the journey to the Miami Seaquarium where it could receive treatment. The manatee is sick due to exposure to a red tide which contains toxins disruptive to the animal’s central nervous system. When they are sick from a red tide, manatees lose their coordination and body orientation. If they are rescued in time most of them recover, fortunately.
West Indian manatees in Florida are endangered and protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Though massive creatures weighing up to 1200 pounds, they can cruise for several hours at 16 mph, and achieve a top speed of 20- 40 mph in bursts, says the Smithsonian. Most of the time they swim at a leisurely 3-5 mph.
They are herbivorous, but may ingest sea squirts, mollusks or zooplankton by accident while consuming plants. Manatees are genetically related to elephants. An ancient relative of elephants spent most of its time in water, and manatees are believed to have evolved from land-based plant eaters, over 60 million years ago.
Image Credit: USGS/Public Domain – Wiki Commons
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