On March 1, 2002, our team spoke with Debra Nordine, the Assistant Public Affairs Officer of Everglades National Park. She has been at the park for eight years.
1. What do you think can stop the dramatic loss of animals in the Everglades?
Habitat protection will help reduce the loss of wildlife. Many birds found in the Everglades rely on the right amount of water in the right places. This has been a problem over the last century and a big problem over the last ten years. People have changed the way water moves through the park. Canals, pumps, and gates divert water. Much water is lost to the ocean. Certain places are to dry because water is stored for agriculture and people. In the last century, one half of the Everglades has disappeared. It has been developed or used as farmland. There is not enough water and birds are not seen as much. About ninety percent of the wading birds no longer nest there.
2. How can people in Florida and around the world help to keep the land in the Everglades stable?
They can take and interest in all plans to restore the Everglades including better water management and taking an interest in land outside the natural areas-how it is used and developed for example do we will really need houses right by the part of the Everglades that is left. We need to conserve water for the Everglades and people.
3. Is the federal and state government helping by trying to keep the habitat in the Everglades how it is?
Yes. The federal government and Florida are actively involved in plans and projects to protect the habitat and water management system. This will help provide more water for the environment, people, and the agriculture.
There are also programs to get rid of exotic plants and animals that don't belong there and affect the native flora and fauna.
What are some examples?
The Brazilian pepper and the melaleuaca tree from Australia. The mellow luca tree was brought in to dry up the swamp. It has taken over thousands of acres of the Everglades and other things don't grow there.
4. Is tourism good or bad for the animals of the Everglades?
Overall, pretty good. When people learn about the Everglades and how unique and special it is they grow to love it and go away wanting to do more to help. There is plenty of room for tourists. There is room for more people than actually come here. There is room for everyone to spread out.
5. Which group is the largest? Is it the mammal, reptile, or bird group? Which group is the smallest?
Birds are the largest group with over 350 species. Mammals are the smallest with forty species. There are fifty species of reptiles and amphibians.
6. How many manatees are there in the Everglades?
Two aerial surveys were taken in the winter of 1999-2000. The first showed 1630 manatees in the whole state of Florida and the second showed 2223. In Everglades National Park 45 were seen in the first survey and 105 in the second survey. Manatees live in fresh and brackish water and they like warm waters.
How is pollution in the Everglades affecting the manatee population?
Pollution is not affecting the manatees here because the water is pretty clean. The biggest problem is accidents with boats-not as big a problem in the Everglades as throughout the state. The other things that affect the manatees are when it gets to cold to quickly, diseases, and the biggest, boats.
What about erosion? Is the manatee population affected by the wearing away of the land?
Erosion is not really affecting the manatees because there is not a lot of soil in the Everglades.
7. What is the white tail deer population?
I don't have any information on the white tail deer.
8. Are there any chances that the Florida panther population will increase?
The latest numbers show that the population has increased. There are not many in the park since it is in the southern end of its range. There are more in Big Cypress Park and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
9. Which is more abundant in Florida, the alligator or the American crocodile?
Definitely the alligator. There over one million in the state of Florida. There are only five hundred American crocodiles. The American crocodile is only found in southern Florida.
10. What is the main reason for the huge comeback of the alligator?
Protection. They were on the verge of extinction due to hunting for its hide and meat. They were the first species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now they are not even threatened, but they are still protected. There are limits on hunting and alligator farming helps protect them in the wild. Lawn enforcement efforts also reduce poaching.
How can the American crocodile make a comeback?
The crocodile population is stabilizing. We have to protect its habitat. Crocodiles like beaches and so do people. Certain beach areas in the Everglades are set aside as a crocodile sanctuary. They are closed to people, except for researchers and park rangers. The Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant provides additional habitat. The crocodiles love their cooling canals and the banks are perfect for nesting. There is also a Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. These are positive signs for the American crocodile.
Why do some people think that the alligator should remain on the Endangered Species list until the crocodile comes back?
Resemblance-some people think that protecting the alligator will help the crocodile so they won't be mistaken. The crocodile likes saltwater and the alligator likes freshwater but there are some areas where the salt and freshwater mix and you can see crocodiles and alligators together.
Nordine, Debra. Telephone Interview. 1 Mar. 2002.
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