Save Manatees | Emmett's Wildlife Initiative
One Expedition at a Time
Each year, Manatee Appreciation Day is celebrated on the last Wednesday of March. This day is raise awareness and support for this endangered species. For the entire month of March, Emmett and I are raising money for Save the Manatee. Save the Manatee is a nonprofit and membership-based organization that protects manatees and their aquatic habitat. Now let's learn a bit about these fascinating marine mammals.
A couple weeks ago, Emmett and I visited manatees at The Seas with Nemo and Friends in Disney's EPCOT. There were two manatees that we could see. They were both graceful and quirky. Watching them swim was fascinating and bitter sweet. Both had injuries. One was missing part of it's fluke (tail) and the other looked like it had a scar on it's back. Like these manatees, other manatees in the wild are injured or killed by human activity such as boating. Like all our adventures, we follow up with research.
What's A Manatee?
Manatees are mammals who live in the ocean, sometimes called “Sea Cows” for their slow and gentle nature. The average manatee will live to be 40-years-old and weigh between 440 to 1,300 pounds. That’s as heavy as a piano, large vending machine, or speedboat!
What Do Manatees Look Like?
Round and gray with lots of wrinkles, manatees have very thick skin and small round eyes. Algae sometimes grows on their skin which can make parts of them look green, especially on their back; almost like a cape! Their big, wide snouts are covered in little whiskers and they have two flippers on either side of their roly-poly bodies, which tapers to a flat tail shaped like a paddle.
Where Do Manatees Live?
Since manatees are aquatic mammals they live in the water. Rivers, estuaries (where rivers meet the sea), and parts of the ocean are all home to the manatee. The West Indian Manatee can be found in the Caribbean and Florida waters. They can’t live in water colder than 68 degrees, so during the winter, they can usually be found further inland where it’s warm. West African Manatees live off the coast of western Africa, while Amazonian Manatees prefer the waters of South America.
What Do Manatees Do?
Most of a manatee’s day is spent eating, resting, and traveling. It’s a road trip that never ends! During playtime, manatees often chase each other or roll over and over. They communicate by squealing underwater to tell their friends when they’re afraid, stressed, or excited. As mammals, manatees need to breathe air and will usually surface the water every three to five minutes or sooner if they’re using a lot of energy. They can stay underwater for as long as 20 minutes while resting and can swim up to 20 miles per hour! Usually, though, manatees will only travel for about three to five miles per hour.
What Do Manatees Eat?
When manatees are babies, known as calves, they drink their mothers’ milk for food. As adults, they have a plant-based diet of water grasses, weeds, and algae. This makes them herbivores! However, sometimes small fish and invertebrates (animals without a backbone such as a jellyfish) are hiding in the plants and get eaten along with the manatee’s meal.
Did you know?
- Elephants are the manatees closest living relative! Their common ancestor, meaning family, ate freshwater plants and lived in swamps or rivers.
- In 1492, Christopher Columbus mistook a manatee for a mermaid while he was sailing the seas! His journals are the first written encounter we have of manatees in North America.
- Alligators will move out of the way for manatees! If a manatee is swimming and needs to get around the crowd, they will bump or nudge them until the alligator lets them through.
Keeping Manatees Safe
Unfortunately, manatees face many threats to their survival. While they have no natural enemies, manatees still encounter danger from human-related causes, especially boat propellers which can often hit and injure them. Some people even hunt manatees, but currently the biggest threat is the loss of their habitat. As more and more human residences are built, sources of warm water are shrinking, leaving the manatees with nowhere to go when their homes get too cold. Supporting protected environments for manatees can help make sure they stay with us for generations to come.
Wildlife Initiative for ManateesHere are several ways you can help save Manatees and their home today:
- Shop at Emmett's Expeditions any day this month. For every product sold in the store, I'll be donating $1 to Save the Manatee. Learn more on Emmett's Wildlife Initiative page.
- Write a Letter. Show elective officials, such as state governors and US Senators, how important is it to protect manatees and their habitat. You can include a poem you've written or draw a picture about manatees as well.
- Letter to the Editor. Spread the word through the newspaper by writing a letter to the editor. Include facts about manatees, their habitat, and how everyone can help them.
- Practice Safe Boating. Before going on a boat, make sure you know boating safety, read up on manatee protection, and find out how to report an injured manatee.
- Donate to Save the Manatee. This organization helps manatees and their habitat in Florida as well as manatee aquatic ecosystems all over the world. When you donate to Save the Manatee you're helping protect manatees, educate others about their struggles, and sponsoring scientists that research, rescue, rehabilitate, and release manatees.
No matter where you are, you can help manatees and their home. Be a part of Manatee Appreciation Day and help us ensure that these creatures can live longer, healthier lives in Earth's oceans.
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