Florida animal officials and environmental groups have warned of an unprecedented number of manatee deaths. The large, slow-moving marine animal is a marine mammal endemic to the state of Florida.
The latest figures from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) show that 974 manatees were found dead as of October 15 this year. That’s more than double the number of these mammals killed last year, and is the most so far.
That figure represents more than 10 percent of the total manatee population in Florida.
Officials fear the onset of winter and colder weather will lead to a new wave of animal deaths.
Environmental officials say the deaths are not mysterious given the amount of seaweed, which is the main diet of manatees, has decreased over the past 10 years.
When wildlife officials conducted a post mortem investigation of the bodies of dead manatees found in the earlier half of this year, the majority of them died of starvation.
Environmental experts say seaweed can’t grow because of declining water quality, caused by the disposal of fertilizers, waste water disposal and other pollution by humans.
Florida estimates that since 2009, about 58 percent of seaweeds have become extinct in the Indian River Lagoon area, a major habitat for manatees, according to a report released on Monday. Associated Press.
Florida’s legislature this year approved $8 million in funding for a manatee habitat restoration program to be managed by state and federal environmental officials.
AP reports, the Fish and Wildlife commission has asked state legislators to approve another $7 million project for a seaweed recovery and manatee rehabilitation center.
The Florida manatee is known for its round body, large forelimbs, and flat, paddle-shaped tail. The average length of an adult manatee can reach over three meters, and weigh up to about 550 kilograms. They can live as long as 65 years. [jm/lt]