Leafy greens are back on the menu for manatees for the second year in a row.
What’s happening: The US Fish and Wildlife Service began hand-feeding lettuce to manatees along Florida’s east coast last month to get them through December’s first cold front, Florida Today reports.
Why it’s important: Over 800 manatees died in Florida in 2022, the second-deadliest year ever recorded, according to preliminary Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) data released this month.
- The federal wildlife agency is considering whether to reclassify the rotund West Indian manatee and subspecies — including the Florida manatee — as endangered, which environmentalists have called for to ensure more resources to stop the star.
How we got here: An “unusual mortality event” that began in the Indian River Lagoon in December 2020 — starvation, from grass beds depleted by pollution and debris — contributed to a record 1,100 reported manatee deaths in 2021 alone.
- That is 13% of the estimated population of the subspecies in one year.
What we see: US Fish and Wildlife Service has until February to decide whether to reclassify the Florida manatee.
- In the meantime, researchers are working on it accelerate seagrass recovery after two related bills failed in the legislature. Seagrass, on which manatees feed, has died out in Florida’s coastal waters, particularly in Tampa Bay, This is reported by Florida Politics.
Anything else: $5.3 million was added to the state budget last year to fund Florida’s Manatee Rescue and Mortality Response initiative, prompting 12 employees and rescue vehicles.
- The state also gave The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature a grant last summer to build a new facility in Myakka to care for manatees.
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