What weighs more than 1,000 pounds? What has to eat 1 0% of its body weight per day to keep warm? What is related to the elephant, but lives in the water? What is sometimes mistaken for the walrus? Well, if you really don’t know what animal I am talking about, then you have never met a manatee.
How big are manatees?
Manatees are large marine mammals that swim in the water all day and all night. A manatee usually weighs up to 2,000 pounds and can grow taller than 12 feet long. The largest manatee known to humans was 3,500 pounds, which is extremely large for a manatee.
What do manatees eat?
Manatees are water mammals, so they have to eat things in the water. Manatees eat water plants because they are herbivores. Considering that manatees eat more than 100 pounds of water plants a day, their teeth wear down, so their teeth fall out and new teeth grow in.
Where do manatees live?
Manatees live in warmer places around the world like the Caribbean Islands and parts of Florida. The reason they have to live in warmer places is if the water gets colder than 60° F, the manatees stop eating and become sick. They can die if these conditions become worse.
Humans are the only living creatures that hunt for manatees because these creatures are so big. Years and years ago, humans mainly hunted them for their meat, fat, and tough skins. In some parts of the Caribbean Islands and parts of South America, humans still hunt manatees for their meat.
Motorboats are becoming the worst threat to manatees, rather than human hunters. Manatees swim in water 6 feet deep and higher, so they have enough room and water to swim in. They are mammals, so they swim near the top of the water so they can breath in oxygen from the outside air. Because these creatures swim near the surface, they are in danger of being hit by motorboats. The boats scrape the manatee’s back leaving a scar, or the boat hits the manatee so hard, it dies.
In 1990, out of 218 manatees, 12% of the United States’ manatee population was killed in serious boating accidents. Most of the rest had a scar or a scrape on their back. Hardly any were 100% fine and not touched by a boat.
Another way people are killing manatees is chemical pollution. Oils, garbage, and dangerous chemicals are being dumped and dropped into the manatees’ habitats and their food. Many manatees get trapped in a piece of trash and can’t get out, so they die. Oil can get in their system if they are in an area by or in the oil. This pollution gets stuck in the plants that manatees eat, and the manatees die because the pollution is poisonous. The pollution destroys the water and the manatee’s home and life and other animals. The oil can make them sick, hurt them badly, or even kill the manatees.
Flood gates have also hurt and killed some manatees. A flood gate is like a doorway under the water between two bodies of water. A flood gate is for managing the water level. It tells people if the water level is too high, or if the water level is too low. The manatees sometimes swim out too far away from their homes and get stuck under flood gates. The flood gates going down squish manatees, killing them. The flood gates also push them so far down, they can not breath, so they drown under the water. Other kinds of flood gates have propellers. These flood gates suck in the manatees, and the propellers cut them badly. Because manatees can not swim fast, they get sucked in and die.
As years have past, the manatee population has gotten a tiny bit higher than it was in 1990. (There were 218 manatees in 1990.) But still today, people are accidentally hurting the manatees by running into them with motorboats.
How are people helping manatees?
People are helping manatees by marking off places just for manatees like in bodies of water in and near Florida. People are also tracking down the manatees and putting collars around their necks, so if anything should happen to the manatees, they would know and go help the manatee. Hunters have also not hunted for manatees as much as they used to. It is illegal in some parts of the United States and other countries around the world. Speed boats are more careful, too, but accidents still happen.
A lot of these accidents have happened to manatees, and if people are not careful, this might happen more and more. The manatees could become
extinct. Then there would be no more manatees to see at zoos or around the world.
U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. West Indian Manatee, (Trichechus manatus). (species.fws.gov/bio_mana.html) Last Visited: November 27, 2001.
Kansoff, Craig. Florida-(West Indian) Manatee. (www.bagheera.com/inthewild/van_anim_manatee.htm) Last Visited: December 7, 2001.
The Wild Ones. West Indian Manatee. (www.thewildones.org/Animals/manatee.html) Last Visited: December 18, 2001.
E. Dale Joyner Nature Preserve. Florida Manatee. (pelotes.jea.com/AnimalFact/Mammal/Manatee.htm) Last Visited: January 4, 2002.
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