Animals | August 19, 2021 12:19 PM | Hang Bona
Manatees in Florida are having a bad year, with 761 of them dying in just one lagoon in the first five months of 2021, accounting for 10% of the state’s population.
Because their major food supply, seagrass, is impossible to thrive in sections of the Sunshine State’s highly polluted waterways, the state’s famed West Indian manatees have been starving to death, Worse still, analysts believe the tendency will continue.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of the Save the Manatee Club.
Manatees eat seagrasses, algae, and other aquatic vegetation and are vegetarians.
Because the creatures are sensitive to cold water, they prefer to spend the winter in locations with warm water.
The Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s Atlantic Coast is a favored site for heat-seeking manatees, with consistently high temperatures due to warm water flow from Florida Generating and Light power facilities.
While the manatees stay warm enough in the lagoon, sewage and agricultural runoff in the region are causing hazardous algae “super blooms” that prevent sunlight from reaching the manatees.
This makes it virtually difficult for seagrasses to develop; the waters “look like pea soup,” according to Martine de Wit, a veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Every year, the lagoon absorbs about 2,5 million pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus from farmland, lawn fertilizer, and leaking septic tanks.
Manatee rehabilitation clinics are increasingly overburdened with ill and malnourished animals, making it difficult to keep up with rescues.
Citizens, thankfully, are now taking action, “Efforts to decrease nutrients are underway,” said Charles Jacoby, a supervisory environmental scientist.
Projects to reduce phosphorus content in wastewater, replace or remove outdated septic tanks, and clean up layers of muck at the lagoon’s bottom are presently ongoing, although results will take years.
Despite this, experts are hopeful about the species’ future, Populations on Florida’s west coast are steady, while those on the east coast “are probably all right” in the long run, according to Jacoby.
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