Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP / Getty Images
The United States Government approved an initiative to feed Florida manatees with lettuce, cabbage and other vegetables to try to stop the massive death of these aquatic mammals due to starvation.
The idea was jointly approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in light of the record for manatee deaths in the east. year, which exceeds a thousand.
This is an “important step,” said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of the environmental group Save the Manatee Club, promoter of the supplemental feeding initiative.
The plan will help prevent hunger due to the devastating loss of seagrass especially in the Indian River lagoon, where the highest mortality has occurred as a result of repeated blooms of harmful algae due to excess contamination by human waste, the organization recalled in a statement.
He explained that the plan is being carried out in a limited and experimental way. to care for manatees that are already malnourished.
“We have made our position on the supply of supplemental food for manatees known to the state and federal government and we believe this will be an important measure to help prevent another severe loss of manatees due to starvation that occurred last winter.” , he stated.
In a recent interview with EFE Rose highlighted that the plan is in no way intended to replace all the diets that manatees consume, which can eat up to 200 pounds (90 kilos) of seagrass every day, but rather focus on specific cases of malnourished or sick individuals, and then see how they respond to the supplements of their regular diet.
Between December 2020 and May 2021, 677 manatees killed were reported off the east coast of Florida, the highest number on record in the state during a six-month period.
Most of the deaths occurred in the coldest months of January, February and March.
As of November 19, the total number of manatee carcasses recovered in the state was 1,017, a historic record.
Manatee generally begin to return to the warm waters of Florida in November.
Despite its size, manatees have relatively little body fat and cannot survive prolonged exposure to cold water temperatures.
They need constant heat from natural springs or effluents from power plants once the water temperature begins to drop below 20 degrees Celsius.
Manatee are herbivores and seagrass is a mainstay of their diet.. But excess nutrient pollution has fueled persistent annual algal blooms for more than a decade, resulting in the loss of more than 90% of the seagrass biomass in the lagoon.
Furthermore, most waterways are essentially devoid of seagrasses.
As a result of severe seagrass losses off the east coast of Florida, it is important to be on the lookout for manatees that appear malnourished, with visible ribs and a sunken area behind the head and unable to balance while breathing faster.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.