Is Protecting Manatees Like Protecting Whales?
I usually live in Florida. It's home to this magnificent sweetheart... the manatee. These gentle animals are herbivores (plant eaters) and they basically do nothing but try to exist. They are mammals so they have to breathe. This means they must come to the surface of the water for air. In this respect manatees are similar to our other friends. . . whales. Both are mammals. Both are air- breathers.
Floridians are also air-breathers. But that seems to be about the only thing they have in common with manatees and whales. The differences are immense.
Although Floridians don't usually eat manatees, they do drive fast boats. Here enters the problem. More manatees actually die from internal injuries than from boat propeller cuts. In other words, when a boat makes contact with a manatee, it often does more than bruise the animal. It kills it!
Saving These Fellows!
- Florida Manatee Facts and Video - Trichechus manatus latirostrus - Defenders of Wildlife - Defenders
Get the facts on Manatee. Manatees are threatened by destruction and degradation of their coastal and freshwater habitat. Take action and help save Manatees.
So What Do Floridians Do to Help?
Since we know that manatees are endangered. . . what do we Floridians do to help them? Of course... we swim with them! That's right... we jump right in and have some group pool time! The law states that manatees must come up to people, and people should not approach the manatee. DO NOT MOLEST MANATEE signs are everywhere near Florida waters. Do you really think that's how it works?
So get this picture. We have a marine animal that needs to breathe and eat vegetation. We're going to give this animal some help by getting into its eating and living space. Genius.
See What You Think!
The manatees' relative is the whale. I say this not because they are the same species, but because they are both swimming air-breathers. By all accounts, it seems that this animal is also just trying to get along. Eat, live, have young whales. That's not asking too much is it? Well.. take a look at this link and see what happened off the coast of South Africa a few days ago. This time it wasn't Floridians swimming with manatees... it was South Africans watching whales from their yacht.
- Whale of a tale! 40-ton mammal lands on yacht - World news - Africa - msnbc.com
A couple were out sailing near South Africa's infamous Robben Island when a forty-ton whale breached and crash-landed on their yacht.
Whale Crashes Into Boat Off South African Coast
So you just read about this couple who have a whale crash right onto their boat. I quote, "Massive animal leaves behind blubber and barnacles and a broken mast." We're worrying about their broken mast?
The whale actually fell so hard onto this yacht that it broke the mast. Could it be possible that this whale (like the manatee) might have some internal injuries? Isn't it just possible that a few hours or days after this incident the whale might die? Maybe?
At almost the exact time this event was unfolding in South Africa, I was on a boat in Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. We were of course whale watching!
On this trip, our boat pilot artfully explained how the whales were hunting in pods in order to catch krill. These were humpback baleen whales, and it was truly amazing to watch the feeding cycle. Seabirds gathered first. Gulls and Kittiwakes swooped and hovered. Then the whales would breach. We watched this same cycle perhaps three times.... first the birds hovered, then the whales breached.
At some point during this feeding cycle, I tried to take some video. Hands held still while taping the seabirds gathering. I taped and held my breath until the whale breached. In my excitement.... I clicked my camera off at the exact moment the whale surfaced.
Needless to say, I didn't get any picture of the whale... but I certainly did tape the behaviors of the birds prior to the whale surfacing. We knew the whales were coming because of the birds. Once we knew what to look for, we were able to tell when the whales would show themselves.
Can't We Get Closer?
After the first time we witnessed these wonderful creatures feeding... a woman on our boat asked, "Can't we get closer?"
Our tactful ship pilot replied, "We have to show respect." We need to keep our distance so that we don't interfere with them. Brilliant answer my dear! Respect.
Whether it's swimming with a manatee, or getting too close to a feeding whale... I think the verdict is out. We aren't protecting when we're interfering. Let's help these guys by simply letting them be.
Floridians, Alaskans, and South Africans
So whether you are a Floridian, an Alaskan, or a South African... don't be like that lady on our boat who asked, "Can we get closer?" If you don't heed the advice of giving respect to these endangered animals then it might just serve you right if by accident.... you get your mast broken.