Manatees are my favourite. They’re playful and gentle. They spend their days lazily bobbing near the waters surface, getting mistook for mermaids by drunken sailors and happily munching on sea grass. They’re brilliant. And they’re also in grave danger.
There’s thought to be around 13,000 manatees living in the Caribbean and the southeast U.S., with over 6,000 of those living in Florida (back in 1973 when they were first listed as ‘endangered’ there were only a few hundred surviving in the wild!).
As you may have seen over the recent days, Manatees are no longer officially considered “endangered”. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service changed their status to a marginally less upsetting “threatened” category. Many articles are overlooking this change as a victory and moving onto other things.
It is great that their numbers are reportedly on the rise, I did a little happy dance in my computer chair when I saw those headlines too. But so are their deaths, and this is why we can’t afford to stop caring. With the re-classed status of the manatee comes a change in legal protection level for them - and no matter how optimistic these government reports are, please remember that manatees are still very much endangered. Habitat loss, fluctuating temperatures, red tide and especially collisions with boats and their big metal propellors are killing these peaceful creatures by the hundreds each year. Without enforced protection more will be killed. The Centre for Biological Diversity has gone on record saying that last year (2016) was the deadliest year for manatees to date.
If you’re reading this and you already work for the wildlife service, I threw a quick illustration together for you. If the plea above and this purple cat riding on a manatee’s back doesn’t convince you how special they are I don’t know what will.
Look at that happy little starfish! (When I do proper Illustration commissions they're a lot more carefully created than this quick one, I promise.)
If you live near manatees or have any environmental power, I urge you to put pressure on federal authorities to reevaluate their reports. Manatees need the protection of the Endangered Species Act now more than ever if we want to keep the population alive and thriving. And we do, because they're the best. If you don't agree we can fight it out in the comments below. Thanks for reading.