They may not be much to look at, but bless them, they’re lovable and even weirdly cute. They’re manatees and they’ve had a pretty tough time of it recently. But finally, these aquatic ‘sea cows’ have some good news to celebrate. They’re no longer an endangered species.
Manatees were actually one of the very first species of animals to be listed on the Endangered Species Protection Act of 1966. Alongside American alligators, whooping cranes, red wolves and grizzly bears. And it’s been a tough ride for them ever since.
One of their most famous people out there in the manatees’ corner and fighting for them is “Margaritaville” singer Jimmy Buffett. He co-founded the sea cow-friendly Save the Manatee Club way back in 1981. Buffett helped to bring some much-needed publicity for the manatee and their tale of woe.
Finally though, there’s excellent news. Manatees in Florida and the Caribbean are now just listed as ‘threatened’, instead of ‘endangered’.
West Indian manatee numbers in Florida have been depleting for years, but now they’ve reached their highest figure in years at 6,620, which is being called “a dramatic turnaround from the 1970s, when just a few hundred individuals remained.” That’s what the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement recently.
Jim Kurth, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s acting director says this about the plight of the manatee:
“While there is still more work to be done to fully recover manatee populations, particularly in the Caribbean, manatee numbers are increasing and we are actively working with partners to address threats.”
“Today we both recognize the significant progress we have made in conserving manatee populations while reaffirming our commitment to continuing this species’ recovery and success throughout its range.”
“The decision will not diminish any existing federal protections that will continue to play a vital role in the recovery of the species,” say the Fish and Wildlife Service. “The manatee will also continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.”
So it’s good news for environmentalists and fans of the humble manatee. But it’s not entirely smooth sailing for the sea cow. They are still very much at risk. Boat collisions, pollution, climate change, loss of habitat. These things can all still affect them…