America’s famous manatees are disappearing due to starvation caused by habitat destruction. A local community hopes lettuce will save them.
Manatees are large, gentle marine creatures much loved by communities in Florida where many manatees live, but human encroachment is threatening their existence. Development is damaging the natural plumbing of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. It has harmed the drinking water supply and left the region deeply vulnerable to climate change. All of this has severely threatened the manatees’ primary food source, seagrass.
Only 7,500 Floridian manatees are said to remain in the wild. In 2017, manatees’ status was updated to threatened from endangered after a successful program educated boaters to avoid injuring and killing them. However, because of the looming threat of starvation, the species is once again in peril.
In light of this crisis, locals have stepped in alongside federal and state wildlife officials to help. Last year, 202,000 pounds of lettuce was dumped into the lagoon to feed the manatees in the area. This movement saw the death toll fall from 612 to 479 in 2021, giving some small hope for the future.
“It’s critical that we as concerned citizens do what we can to help preserve them,” says Gloria Davies, CEO of Animal Survival International (ASI) and a Florida resident. “We at ASI hope that many generations to come will enjoy this precious species. It is up to all of us to act as responsible custodians of our natural environment to ensure that this is possible.”
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