Endearing, Endangered Gentle Giants: Marvelous Manatees [44 PICS]

July 12th, 2013 Permalink

Massive yet gentle, manatees are endangered marine mammals. Sometimes called “sea cows,” they were once thought to be a bit dimwitted, but now are known to have a similar intelligence to dolphins. We fell in love with them while we were in Florida, so here’s look at these endearing, endangered gentle giants. [44 Photos]

Kissing manatees in Georgia

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (.pdf), “Christopher Columbus was the first European to report seeing a manatee in the New World. To Columbus, and other sailors who had been at sea for a long time, manatees were reminiscent of mermaids—the mythical half-fish, half-woman creatures of the ocean. Manatees are not fish, however, but marine mammals.” When you think about manatees, you probably think of those living in Florida. However, these West Indian manatees traveled to Georgia in late spring and early summer. Photo #1 by Michael Gilbert, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex / USFWS

King Spring, one of many warm-water springs in Kings Bay, provides 72 degree water for manatees year-round

King Spring, one of many warm-water springs in Kings Bay, provides 72 degree water for manatees year-round. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was set up for the protection of the endangered West Indian Manatee. It preserves the last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay, which forms the headwaters of the Crystal River. The refuge preserves the warm water spring havens, which provide critical habitat for the manatee populations that migrate here each winter. Photo #2 by Wayne Lynch / Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex


Fat Manatee at the Sea World Exhibit in Orlando Florida

Fat Manatee at the Sea World Exhibit in Orlando Florida. About captivity, Wikipedia states, “The oldest manatee in captivity is Snooty, at the South Florida Museum. He was born at the Miami Seaquarium on July 21, 1948 and came to the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Florida in 1949. Manatees can also be viewed in a number of European zoos, such as the Tierpark in Berlin, the Nuremberg Zoo, in ZooParc de Beauval in France and in the Aquarium of Genoa in Italy. They are also included in the plans for a new National Wildlife Conservation Park in Bristol, England, whose first exhibit is due to open in summer 2013 with the manatees as an addition as early as 2015.” Because of Snooty’s ability to remember the voices of former keepers, tricks he learned when only one year old, and his affectionate and friendly nature, people have come to understand that manatees are very intelligent. “Studies there have disproven the long-standing idea that manatees, having the smallest brain-to-body ratio, were dim-witted: thanks to manatees such as Snooty, Hugh and Buffett (ages 58, 22 and 19 in 2006), neuroscientists and biologists have concluded that manatees are ‘as adept at experimental tasks as dolphins’.” Photo #3 by Ahodges7

Manatee resting at Three Sisters Springs while shading over a school of mangrove snappers

Manatee resting at Three Sisters Springs while shading over a school of mangrove snappers. When swimming, a manatee averages a speed of about 3 to 5 miles per hour (5 to 8 kph), but they are capable of short bursts of speed, swimming at 20 mph (30 kph). Photo #4 by Keith Ramos / USFWS

Manatees in love

This was the 2nd place photo in America’s incredible National Wildlife Refuge System contest. The photographer took it at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo #5 by Carol Grant via National Wildlife Refuge Association

Manatee with nursing calf

Manatee with nursing calf. At birth, calves weigh between 40 – 60 pounds (30 kilograms) and are about 3 – 4 four feet long (1 meter). Adult manatees usually grow to about nine feet long (3 meters) and weigh about 1,000 pounds (200 kilograms), but some manatees reach about 13 feet in length and have been recorded weighing 3,500 pounds. Photo #6 by Gaylen Rathburn / USFWS

Manatee at Williamsburg, Florida, US

Manatee at Williamsburg, Florida. The US Fish and Wildlife explained, “Manatees have large, seal-shaped bodies with paired flippers and a round, paddle-shaped tail. They are typically grey in color (color can range from black to light brown) and occasionally spotted with barnacles or colored by patches of green or red algae. The muzzle is heavily whiskered and coarse, single hairs are sparsely distributed throughout the body.” Photo #7 by wbeem

Petting a manatee

The photographer said some manatees like to be rubbed. The West Indian manatee might be found near the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela. Photo #8 by Sean McCann

Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostrus, Crystal River, Florida, USA

Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostrus, at Crystal River, Florida. “The river’s significance is in the thirty natural springs that add an average of 300 million gallons (1,135 million liters) of warm water to the river every day. These springs include Three Sisters Springs,” thus spake Wikipedia. “The warm water in the river attracts large numbers of manatees, and Kings Bay, at the head of the river and the location of 28 of the springs, harbors approximately 350 manatees during the winter. Some biologists consider Crystal River to be the most important refuge for manatees in the United States.” Photo #9 by ASCOM Prefeitura de Votuporanga

Manatee, a federally endangered species

NOAA wrote, “A manatee, also known as a ‘seacow.’ These air-breathing herbivores are listed as a federally endangered species. Manatees are slow-moving and therefore unable to swim quickly away from boats; this often results in collisions that may cause injury or death to the creatures. In areas that are known manatee habitats, ‘no-wake’ signs are posted requiring boaters to slow down and produce only minimal wake.” Photo #10 by NOAA’s National Ocean Service

Caution manatee area sign at a marina in Florida

This “Caution Manatee Area” sign was posted at a marina in Florida. This was near Indian River where manatees and dolphins are dying in record numbers; it so far defies scientific explanation. “We have to hope we can find the answer, because until we do, we don’t know how we can help prevent it in the future,” said Jan Landsberg, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Wired reported, “Since last July, 51 dolphins, 111 manatees, and as many as 300 pelicans have perished in the lagoon. The deaths don’t follow an obvious pattern: Manatees are dying so quickly that some still have food in their mouths, while the dolphins and pelicans appear to be starving to death.” Photo #11 by Love These Pics

Mid-January, manatees resting at Tarpon Hole (left) and King Spring (right) during a 30 degree F day

Mid-January, manatees resting at Three Sisters Springs. The photographer noted that “Aerial surveys have counted over 5,000 manatees in Florida waters.” FWS explained that some manatees are tracked, but the population is usually observed from above. Photo #12 by Joyce Kleen / USFWS

Crystal River and Kings Bay is the winter home to hundreds of manatees

Crystal River and Kings Bay is the winter home to hundreds of manatees. The West Indian manatee moves in and out of freshwater, brackish, and saltwater. Those that “survive such encounters carry distinctive scars. In fact, biologists studying the species use the scars as ways of identifying individual animals. As a conservation measure, many areas now post speed-limit signs for boats or prohibit them completely.” Photo #13 by Michael Lusk / USFWS

Manatees at Three Sisters Springs

Manatees at Three Sisters Springs. According to Wikipedia, “Manatees comprise three of the four living species in the order Sirenia. The fourth is the Eastern Hemisphere’s dugong. The Sirenia are thought to have evolved from four-legged land mammals over 60 million years ago, with the closest living relatives being the Proboscidea (elephants) and Hyracoidea.” Photo #14 by Alex Mustard / Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Kayaking with manatees at Weeki Wachee Shores, Spring Hill, FL

Kayaking with manatees at Weeki Wachee Shores, Spring Hill, FL. Youngsters are curious and might swim near to check it out. Photo #15 by Jeff Fillmore

Manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Florida

Manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Florida. Yet NOAA reports the most deaths this year are manatees (58) and the cause is undetermined. Photo #16 by Jim Brekke

Endangered mammal species manatee, cow and calf

FWS reported (.pdf), “The manatee often rests suspended just below the water’s surface with only the snout above water. It feeds underwater, but must surface periodically to breathe. Although the manatee can remain underwater for as long as 12 minutes, the average time is 4-1/2 minutes.” Photo #17 by Hillebrand Steve, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Manatees crossing over the King Spring toward the manatee sanctuary's shallow waters

Sun-rays as manatees cross over the King Spring toward the manatee sanctuary’s shallow waters. Photo #18 by David Hinkel / USFWS

Red Tide off the coast of Florida has killed a record 174 endangered manatees so far in 2013

NOAA reports that Red Tide (HAB conditions) off the coast of Florida have killed a record 174 endangered manatees thus far in 2013. Photo #19 by NOAA

Manatee in Manatee Hospital after becoming sick by red tide in Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation “staff rescued two manatees in distress from red tide areas and brought them to the Manatee Hospital at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. After taking blood samples and administering fluids and medication, hospital staff placed the manatees in a warm pool with flotation gear. Within a day, these animals were doing much better! FWC Harmful Algal Bloom staff members assist with manatee rehabilitation by testing blood to monitor red tide toxin levels. Generally, manatees rescued from red tides recover fully and can be released to their natural habitat as soon as they are healthy and the environment is safe. If you see a sick, injured or dead manatee, please report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline by calling 888-404-FWCC (3922).” Photo #20 by Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

Manatees at Florida, not in the wild, but at Sea World

Manatees at Florida, not in the wild, but at Sea World. Photo #21 by Jessie Harrell

Manatee Sea Cow nostrils

Sea Cow nostrils. Photo #22 by Timothy Wildey

Manatee Drinking Water from a hose in Plantation Key, Florida

Drinking water from a hose in Plantation Key, Florida. Photo #23 by Rafael Robayna

Manatee munching on Cabbage Palm at Blue Spring State Park

Manatee munching on Cabbage Palm at Blue Spring State Park. Photo #24 by B A Bowen Photography

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1983, specifically protects the endangers West Indian Manatee

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1983, specifically protects the endangered West Indian manatee. Behavior and diet (FWS .pdf): The manatee maneuvers through the water moving its paddle-like tail up and down and steering with its flippers. It is very agile for such a large animal, sometimes somersaulting and doing barrel rolls in the water. Photo #26 by David Hinkel / USFWS

Manatee foraging for food

Dugong, relative to the manatee, foraging for food at Marsa Abu Dabab, Egypt. Photo #27 by Matthijs

Endangered Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus)

Endangered Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus). Photo #28 by David Hinkel / USFWS

Closeup of endangered Florida manatees

Closeup of endangered Florida manatees. Photo #29 by David Hinkel / USFWS & #30 by David Hinkel / USFWS

Florida manatee at Pass A Grille Branch, Florida, US

Florida manatee at Pass A Grille Branch, Florida, US. Photo #31 by Steve Webel

A baby manatee piggyback riding on its mom

A baby manatee piggyback-riding on its mom. Photo #32 by Amanda Richards

African manatee at Toba aquarium

African manatee at Toba aquarium. Wikipedia states, “There are three accepted living species of Trichechidae, representing three of the four living species in the order Sirenia: the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), and the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis).” Photo #33 by pelican from Tokyo, Japan

Bird flying over manatees

FWS explained, “Manatees reach breeding maturity between 3 and 10 years of age. The gestation period is approximately 13 months. Calves may be born at any time during the year. Usually a single calf is born, but twins do occur. An adult manatee will usually give birth to a calf every 2 to 5 years. The low reproductive rate makes the species less capable of rebounding from threats to its survival.” Photo #34 by Art Lewis

Guamá, orphaned manatee in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba was bottle-fed and rehabilitated in Puerto Rico

Guamá, orphaned manatee in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was bottle-fed and rehabilitated in Puerto Rico. Photo #35 by Jan Paul Zegarra, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, USFWS

Diver feeding a baby manatee

Diver feeding a baby manatee. Photo #36 by kyhLiang

Hand feeding manatees

Hand-feeding the gentle giants. Photo #37 by KirstenPGow

2 West Indian manatees, only female specimens existing in Spain

Two West Indian manatees, only female specimens existing in Spain. The photographer added that when this baby was born, it weighed about 19,200 kilograms, about 42.5 pounds, and measured just over a meter (3 feet) in length. Photo #38 by jacinta lluch valero

Swimming with manatees

Swimming with manatees. Believe it or not, we saw a manatee and an alligator when visiting Kennedy Space Center. NASA has setup an amazing wildlife preservation there. Photo #39 by Ramos Keith / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Underwater photography of fish and manatee

Underwater photography of fish and manatee. Photo #40 by Ramos Keith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

West Indian manatee

West Indian manatee. National Geographic wrote, “Manatees are born underwater. Mothers must help their calves to the surface so that they can take their first breath, but the infants can typically swim on their own only an hour later. Manatee calves drink their mothers’ milk, but adults are voracious grazers. They eat water grasses, weeds, and algae—and lots of them. A manatee can eat a tenth of its own massive weight in just 24 hours.” Photo #41 by Tracy Colson / USFWS

Manatee swimming over divers in Egypt

Dugong sea cow swimming over divers in Egypt. The dugong, like the manatee, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is most closely related to Steller’s sea cow, which was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. The Steller Sea Cow is one of the extinct species that scientists are considering resurrecting. Photo #42 by .m for matthijs

Two West Indian manatee nuzzling noses

Two West Indian manatees nuzzling noses. Photo #43 by Rathbun Galen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Parker Manatee Aquarium, Bradenton, FL

Parker Manatee Aquarium, Bradenton, FL. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the only manatees that existed for your kids or grandkids to see were in captivity like zoos and aquariums, or “stuffed” in a museum exhibit? Photo #44 by Jeff Stvan


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