WEST INDIAN MANATEE
Manatees and their relatives are the only vegetarian marine mammals. They are known as sea cows, and they eat sea grass. They weigh up to 1,600 kg and reach 4 m in length and have a mermaid-like tail. Today manatees are rare or extinct in most of their range. They are found in slow moving rivers, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas where sea grass flourishes. The largest population is in Florida where they concentrate in the winter. In summer, Florida manatees are found as far west as Louisiana and as far north as the Carolinas and Virginia . They are also found in the coastal waterways of Central and South America . Manatees have a low metabolic rate and need to be in water 68°F and above and are subject to hypothermia in waters below 60°F.
Manatees are harmless and are the slowest marine mammal. They have no defense system except for fleeing, and do not fight for food or territory. They have few natural enemies, except man. Manatees eat 45-68 kg of plants per day. Their big appetites and grazing helps to keep waterways free and flowing. When they are not eating, they are usually sleeping. However, they are known to body surf. Because of their need for warm water, manatees often congregate in the warm water. Manatees communicate with squeaks and squeals. They are very tactile, "kiss" each other in greeting, nuzzle snout to snout and embrace with their flippers.
Manatees are an endangered species. The 2001 manatee population count was 3,276. However, scientists are concerned that too many manatees are dying each year to keep the population growing or at least stable. Spread the word to friends. Let us help the manatee before it is too late.