Wildlife officials will start feeding Florida manatees to prevent starvation

Posted on 10 December 2021

Due to an increase in starvation rates among the population, wildlife officials have orchestrated a plan to begin feeding manatees in Florida, USA directly. Florida’s manatee population has been greatly affected by pollution leading to dwindling numbers and endangerment to the species.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Keith Ramos

The state authorities in Florida have announced that they will be implementing a pilot programme on the Sunshine State’s east coast southeast of Orlando, set to start with the Indian River Lagoon and will branch out further from this destination. The manatees flock to this area in search of warmth and food, often basking in the warm water near the power plant and grazing on seagrass growing in the area.

In recent years the manatees’ food sources have been declining due to heavy runoff from surrounding farmlands and urban areas. The runoff has resulted in a phenomenon known as algae bloom which is when algae rapidly spread across a body of water, blocking out sunlight and affecting plant growth and stability in the water system.

The algae bloom has reportedly stunted the growth of seagrass and additionally caused the release of harmful toxins into the water. These circumstances have negatively impacted the manatee population in Florida, causing mass starvation and many fatalities. According to The South African, approximately 1,017 manatees have already died in 2021. Wildlife officials expect this number to increase as the icy winter months approach.

The feeding programme stipulates that only a select number of people will be authorised to administer feedings. The feedings will be conducted around the Indian River Lagoon and will only be conducted under the necessary circumstances.

The deputy of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Thomas Eason, commented on the feeding programme saying that ‘This unprecedented event is worth unprecedented actions’. Eason additionally emphasised the prohibition of participation of the public in feeding the manatees.

The new manatee feeding programme has received a lot of support and positive feedback from residents and organisations. A local non-government organisation known as Save the Manatee has expressed their approval of the programme with executive director, Patrick Rose, calling the programme a ‘significant move to help prevent another severe loss of manatees due to starvation’.


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