More than 80 starving manatees in US rehab – Smithers Interior News

More than 80 rescued Florida manatees are at rehabilitation centers across the United States as wildlife officials try to stem starvation deaths of marine mammals due to poor water quality.

The latest numbers were released Wednesday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of an unprecedented effort to feed starving manatees and care for those in distress.

The state provided about $1.2 million for the treatment effort, officials said, with the rest of the rising costs borne by facilities such as SeaWorld. rescue program in orlando. There are 13 such locations at aquariums and other facilities in Florida, Texas, Ohio, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

“It’s a huge effort and they’re doing a fantastic job,” said Terri Calleson of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “A lot of things happen at their expense.”

The answer comes as manatees continue to die along Florida’s east coast from the seagrass they normally feed on during the cold winter months. is disappearing. The main reason is polluted water from sources such as agricultural fertilizer runoff, sewage discharges and urban sources.

Last year, more than 1,100 manatee deaths were recorded largely due to starvation, well above the typical five-year average of around 625 deaths. In 2022 up to last week, 326 manatee deaths were recorded, only seven of which were due to collisions with boats, according to national wildlife commission statistics.

The experimental feeding program using romaine lettuce continues seven days a week at a Florida Power & Light plant in Brevard County along the east coast, where hundreds of manatees typically congregate during the cold months in the factory hot water discharge area.

On Tuesday, more than 63,000 pounds (28,500 kilograms) of lettuce were fed to the manatees, said Jon Wallace of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Food is paid for mainly by donations to the nonprofit Fish & Wildife Foundation of Florida.

“Everything is still going great,” Wallace said.

There are approximately 8,800 manatees in Florida waters. It’s a big improvement over the roughly 2,000 animals of the 1990s, in part for the reason they were removed from the federal government’s endangered species list.

Officials say it is important for residents of coastal Florida to report any sick or distressed manatees they see so they can be taken to a rehabilitation center.

“Overall, we consider these rescue efforts a success. This is a small victory for us,” said Andy Garrett, manatee rescue coordinator for the state wildlife commission.

But officials also stressed that the approach of warmer weather does not mean the starvation problem is over, especially since some of the sluggish, round-tailed animals will need extensive treatment.

“That need doesn’t end with the end of the cold weather this year,” said SeaWorld salvage operations manager Jon Peterson. “Some animals have been here a long time. That takes time.

Curt Anderson, The Associated Press


Betty K. Park