The West Indian Manatee

Lizzy Rosenbloom

Habitat

Manatees like hallow, slow-moving waters of rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas. They can move easily between freshwater and saltwater environments, but prefer freshwater.

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Why are they endangered?

Manatees were hunted but now are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the killing of all marine mammals. Today’s largest threats to manatees are. . .

-collisions with boats

-venerability to entanglement in fishing gear

-red tide blooms

-loss of seagrass beds they feed upon due to pollutants

-climate change has imposed more extreme weather patterns and temperature fluctuations. In 2010 at least 246 manatees died in Florida due to cold stress from the colder-than-normal winter. Considering their small population size (1,500-3,000) and low reproductive rates, cuts as such into their populace are regarded as substantial.


They are considered endangered and their survival is seen as limited due to their low reproductive rates. However, because of the protection they have been granted, West Indian Manatee populations have been on a steady rise. As a result, this species may lose its status as "endangered".

Why are they important?

Ecologically: manatees help control the vegetation that can obstruct waterways. They also provide a benefit by processing the vegetation and recycling it back out into the environment as a form of fertilizer


Economically: areas populated with manatees draw tourism because of their "aesthetic value"