Defenders in Action: More Protections Needed for Manatees

Florida Manatee, © Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures

© Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures
Sad record was set in Florida last year: the most manatee deaths—429—ever in state waters. And there’s been even more bad news going into the new year: Because of unusually cold temperatures, more than 300 manatees died in the first six weeks of 2010. At the same time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced in January that new critical habitat protections for the species are warranted but that funding limitations will prevent the agency from acting on that need.

“Last year’s high death rate confirms that the Florida manatee needs help now,” says Elizabeth Fleming, Florida representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “FWS has acknowledged this need, and now we need to make sure it translates into actual protections.”

Stay Informed
Did you know manatees are related to elephants? Find out more fun facts—and see a video of a manatee eating—on your manatee fact sheet.

Manatees are threatened by coastal development, propeller scarring, dams, pollution and marine debris, including derelict fishing gear. Last year’s death toll included 56 from cold-related stress and 97 from watercraft run-ins, while 114 newborns simply didn’t survive.

“The death rate for this federally endangered species is unsustainable, according to FWS’s own statistics,” says Fleming.

FWS’s recent decision came in response to a petition to revise the manatee’s critical habitat filed by Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups. According to the petition, revised habitat protections are needed based on a vast body of science developed over the past three decades, which has better identified the areas essential to the survival and recovery of manatees.

Defenders at Work 
Find out how Defenders is working to save endangered manatees.

More Articles from Spring 2010

These tough predators will battle grizzlies, but they're no match for climate change
The drive to produce biofuels adds to the pressures on vulnerable prairie chickens
Freshwater mussels may not be cute, but we can’t afford to ignore them
The first Earth Day was conceived by the late Senator Gaylord Nelson as a day of learning. In response, schools nationwide organized environmental “teach-ins.”
Like wildebeest on the Serengeti or salmon in the Pacific Northwest, monarch butterflies take part in an epic migration.
With its eight arms you might say an octopus is “handy,” but handy with a tool?
Jaguars may finally get the protection they deserve in the American Southwest now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has agreed to create a recovery plan for the imperiled felines.
Last year saw a record-high 17 deaths of the endangered big cats on Florida roadways—with one of these still under investigation. In 2008, 10 panthers were killed by vehicles.
Last year saw a record-high 17 deaths of the endangered big cats on Florida roadways—with one of these still under investigation. In 2008, 10 panthers were killed by vehicles.
EPA Upholds Pesticide Ban—Lions Still Imperiled; North Carolina Bridge Goes Nowhere; Defenders Sues to Protect Water and Wildlife; Defenders Receives Nature’s Path Award
This is the heart of wolf country in the West, a place where Defenders of Wildlife is helping ranchers keep both their flocks and resident wolves safe.
Its name may sound silly, but the bobolink is a serious songster—and a world-class traveler. These dark birds sail the night skies, migrating to grasslands, hayfields and meadows in North and South America—a round trip that’s about 12,500 miles long.
Dwelling high in western mountains, American pikas bear little resemblance to their closest cousin—the rabbit.

You may also be interested in:

Habitat Conservation
For all its unique beauty, the Arctic Refuge is under assault. The oil industry and its political allies continue to launch attacks to open this national treasure to destructive oil and gas drilling, while climate change threatens to disrupt its habitats faster than wildlife can adapt.
In the Magazine
A new poison is on the menu in Great Plains states, where ranchers claim that burrowing, grass-eating prairie dogs degrade pasture land.
In the Magazine
"Under the Bush administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service was willing to basically write the jaguar off because there are so few jaguars left in this country,"...