Manatees, or sea cows, one of the most endangered aquatic mammals, are in hot water because of cold water. The freezing cold weather over Florida and the eastern US is stressing manatees out, and conservationists are concerned that cold stress will continue to kill the endangered sea cows.
The extremely cold weather is apparently forcing manatees out of their warmer habitats. The cold seems to be more concentrated in areas such as rivers, springs, and nearby power plants. According the Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, boaters should be careful when traveling into Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway, because manatees may be trying to cross in order to reach refuges that have warmer, safer waters. The second biggest cause of sea cow mortality is boat strike accidents.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, three sea cows were released at the Apollo Beach Nature Park after being rehabilitated due to cold stress. Cold stress is especially more common to West Indian manatees, since these species are concentrated in the northern regions of Florida, and have been seen in Rhode Island as well as Massachussetts coasts over the years.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is the main sea cow rescue facility in the state, but its success greatly depends on a partnership with other organizations such as the Lowry Park Zoo, and other animal care systems. Lowry Park Zoo, in particular, aims to provide immediate and intensive care to orphaned, sick or injured manatees. Also, they aim to provide facilities for research on manatee behaviour, reproduction and ecology. Moreover, it is geared towards educating the visiting public about the endangered sea cows, and how they can be more responsible citizens who protect marine life and population.