Some people might think a manatee has something to do with men golfing ala “man at tee.” However, a manatee, often dubbed the “seacow,” is a slow-moving, peaceful aquatic mammal. Their large bodies, with short stumpy flippers, propel them through the water at a gentle glide. Their odd, yet lovable appearance looks something like a cross between a walrus, seal and cow.
Somehow, the more time you spend watching YouTube videos of the gentle giants swimming around, the more you fall in love with these critically endangered animals. These herbivores spend most of their time floating around grazing on vegetation. However, humans pose a direct threat to their quiet existence.
Since record-keeping began in 1974, more than 41 percent of manatee deaths were caused by humans. Almost 34 percent were due to collisions with watercraft, their leading cause of death. Manatees are easily caught in fishing nets and sliced by boat propellers since they can’t get out of the way fast enough. The non-profit Save the Manatee Club of Maitland, Florida thinks they are worth saving.
Save the Manatee Club was started in 1981 by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett and former U.S. Senator Bob Graham when he was governor of Florida.
The manatee is particularly cherished in Florida as it is their official state marine mammal. Sadly, they are listed as endangered at the international level by the IUCN World Conservation Union, at the federal level by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and at the state level by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
STM believes that “human activities are harming manatees, and only our compassion and action can protect them.” They work tirelessly to change public policy in order to protect manatees worldwide. Their goals are to protect manatee habitat, support a stable or growing manatee population, reduce harm from humans and ensure regulations have been put in place to accomplish those goals.
With increased awareness, education, regulations, and enforcement, manatee deaths caused by humans could be substantially reduced, and the species could eventually recover.