Florida’s beloved manatees are dying in alarming numbers again. Here’s why
Emergency feeding and rescue efforts are under way for these gentle aquatic relatives of elephants, weakened by hunger and winter cold.
COCOA, FLORIDAThe same pressures that killed more than 1,100 Florida manatees last year are at play again this winter, with Florida wildlife officials reporting 97 dead manatees in January alone. Starvation and cold weather are the culprits. Estimates of the total number of manatees in the state range from 5,700 to 7,500.
Most deaths have occurred in Indian River Lagoon, an estuary stretching more than 150 miles down the middle of Florida’s east coast. Here, decades of pollution from farm fertilizers and residential developments have killed off vast swaths of seagrass that are manatees’ main food source.
Between mid-January when cold weather hit Florida and the end of the month, the number of manatee carcasses that were found tripled, says state veterinarian Martine