You’ve probably seen the”don’t touch” signs for manatees and wondered why this would be so after hearing about places like Crystal Springs, Florida where people go to swim with the manatees. I have heard the stories also: manatees rolling on their backs to have their bellies scratched. People saying how much the manatees appear to like it.
So what is the problem? If they enjoy it, why should not you touch manatees in the wild?
You also put the whole species in danger of dying out indefinitely.
They also lose their natural fear of things connected with people that could hurt them like boats. To put it differently, if you choose the”wild” out of a wild creature, it loses one of its best defense mechanisms: the instinct to avoid certain situations and run off when necessary. To get a manatee’s protection, it’s very important that it remain wild and retain its natural wild instinct.
This implies there are so few left in the world, they are barely hanging on by a thread. In actuality, not only are their population numbers low, they’re also falling at least 20% each generation! Losing just one manatee to a senseless pre-mature human caused death is a REALLY big deal at this point. It’s crucial that we do everything we can to protect them. Otherwise, we could get rid of this incredible creature forever within the next 100 years. It’s a sad thought to think that your Great-Grandchildren could live in a world where there are no manatees in the wild.
The female stays pregnant for at least a year and manatee pups stay with their Mother for about 2 decades. It follows that manatees have a slow growing population under the very best of circumstances. They can not quickly replace themselves like other mammals such as rodents and rabbits that reproduce far more frequently. If you take out a single manatee, it can have a huge impact on the population at this point.
Boating accidents are one of the primary ways manatees get killed and seriously injured now — and boat traffic continues to increase across their whole selection. Manatees can stay under water for 15 – 20 minutes. However, like all other marine mammals, they need to come to the surface to breath. If there is a boat in the region when they do, they can get hit by the hull or cut by the propeller. If a boat is traveling fast, they might not even see it coming before it is too late. Manatees that have become accustomed to individuals are more likely to associate the sound of a boat motor with people and they’ll be more inclined to move into areas where there is high boat traffic. The number of boat related accidents with manatees has skyrocketed over the last decade.
If manatees become accustomed to getting their bellies scratched by people, they may expect ALL human beings to be so friendly. Regrettably, we all know that not all human beings are this friendly. In actuality, there are some people who would actually get some type of sadistic pleasure out of harming a manatee.
It’s especially important not to touch or even interact with a manatee Mother when she is with her pup. It takes two years for the Mother to teach her puppy all they need to know to live by themselves. Interacting with the Mother and/or puppy at this important stage can lead to the two of them getting separated. If this happens, the pup may not be prepared to fend for itself and it might well die, as well as the negative effect it will have on the forlorn Mother.
Most people that are compelled to get a manatee are this way because they love animals. They wish to touch it because they’re attracted to this kind of fascinating and wonderfully odd creature. They imply the manatee no harm. They just don’t realize that touching the manatee could actually harm it or put it at greater risk for being killed. It’s mostly for those people who I am writing this article for.
Please understand that for the manatee’s sake, the best way to observe it is to maintain a respectable distance. There is also a large advantage to you doing observing them in this way — a huge advantage that you may not have realized before. When you observe a wild creature from a decent distance, you get to see how the animal behaves naturally! As fun as it might be to touch a manatee, it is even funner to actually get to see what it does in the wild. If you go out with an ethical eco-tour operator, they can show you how to see animals at a relatively close range but without bothering them. This can be one of the richest most memorable experiences you will ever have.
So, if you find a manatee while snorkeling or swimming, try to maintain a respectable distance and just observe how it behaves naturally. The less you interact with it, the more acclimated it is going to be about you and the more natural it will behave. You will be richly rewarded for showing the creature this respect, I assure you! If you are with a group, take care not to completely surround the manatee, even at a distance, since this will make them feel trapped.
If you’re driving a boat and spot a manatee, be sure to slow way down to avoid any possibility of a collision. If you’re taking a guided trip and someone else is driving the ship, if they don’t slow down, then point out the manatee to them and ask them nicely to slow down. Occasionally when manatees surface for air, most of their body remains below water and just their snout sticks out. In these situations, they can be tricky to see and the driver of the ship may have missed it. In this way, even if you are not driving the boat, you really can help by keeping your eyes peeled for them.
Remember that manatees are a true treasure in this world that could disappear if we are not extremely careful about how we behave around them. You can save them just by getting the right information out there.