Well, the manatee sure deserves to be appreciated on March 27. This gentle marine mammal lives mainly in the coastal waters of the southeastern United States, and they spend most of their time eating, sleeping and traveling from place to place depending on the season. Manatees can live up to sixty years and have no known enemies. Unfortunately, their numbers have dwindled over the last thirty-five years to the point of extinction, due mostly in part to human interference. Most of their deaths are caused by loss of habitat and watercraft collisions. Now they’re so well-protected that you’ll often see news articles about thoughtless people getting arrested after innocently postings Facebooks of frolicking with manatees. That’s illegal–which is just one thing your kids might enjoy knowing about the manatee on its special day… [image via flickr]
Protecting the Manatee
In the past, the manatee was hunted for its meat, fat and hide, but today is protected by several state and federal laws. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 make it a crime to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammals, including the manatee. If convicted at a federal level, violators face a fine up to $100,000 and/or prison time of up to one year. In addition, the manatee is protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Anyone convicted under this act faces a $500 fine and/or jail time up to sixty days.
Because manatees are such gentle, friendly creatures, people often make the mistake of trying to interact with them in the water. Also, because manatees make their homes in the same waters that people use for recreation, they are at risk for injury and death from being hit by boat propellers and other water craft. It is incredibly important that when playing in these areas to be mindful of the manatee and do your best to avoid any kind of contact whatsoever with these animals.
Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t enter any area designated as a manatee sanctuary for any reason.
- Don’t pursue a manatee in the water.
- Don’t disturb a resting manatee. Doing so is unlawful.
- Don’t ever attempt to feed a manatee or give it water. Doing so “tames” a manatee and interferes with its ability to survive on its own.
- Don’t ever attempt to touch a manatee for any reason.
- Don’t attempt to corner or surround a manatee.
- Don’t ever attempt to separate a calf from its mother.
Taking part in any of these activities can interfere with a manatee’s natural existence. If manatees become dependent upon humans for food, water or entertainment, it could eventually lead to their death. But we don’t mind people getting close enough to film these gentle giants, and your kids should get a kick out of this video as the manatees frolic in their own weird way…