Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is it about me and manatees?

This is a variation on a theme I’ve written about before, and with my current manatee fundraiser, it seemed time for a reprise.

Every now and then the odd collection of my interests and pastimes seems to baffle people. Take manatees: Why am I, a woman living in Washington State, passionate about the plight of the manatee, which lives nowhere near me?

I have always had a great concern and fondness for endangered creatures of all kinds. I vividly recall first becoming aware of manatees as a little girl, before much publicity was being brought to their plight. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of them before, and was fascinated by such awesomely large, perfectly gentle creatures, the corners of their mouths always turned up like little smiles. How could anything so wonderful be at risk of extinction?

Then in 2000 I had the opportunity to visit my relatives in Florida, and they took my husband and I for a short boat tour at Blue Spring State Park. We saw amazing plant life and any number of alligators, but what we really yearned to see was a manatee. There were hints that they were near—

—but it wasn’t until we got off the boat and were just standing watching the river that we saw some clamor, as a group of volunteers met a van. Out of the van the group of people hoisted a manatee which had been rescued and rehabilitated. 

When this manatee was released into the water, another manatee immediately came up from the bottom of the river and nudged the newcomer, unmistakably like a greeting.

I had tears streaming down my face...I was IN LOVE with manatees!

Since then I’ve tried to find out all I can about this creature, and have been amazed. For instance, manatees are intelligent (“capable of understanding discrimination tasks, and show signs of complex associated learning and advanced long term memory.” [Gerstein, E. R. (1994). The manatee mind: Discrimination training for sensory perception testing of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus). Marine Mammals 1: 10–21.] They demonstrate complex discrimination and task-learning similar to dolphins and pinnipeds in acoustic and visual studies. [Marine Mammal Medicine, 2001, Leslie Dierauf & Frances Gulland, CRC Press]. The manatee’s closest land relation is the elephant, not the cow, despite their being called sea cows in many parts of the world. They are thought to have evolved from four-legged land animals some 60 million years ago.

Think about it: Manatees have made it 60 million years on the Earth and now their survival is threatened.

Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation of Save the Manatee Club, wrote a succinct essay about the threats to manatees and what the future might hold (After Devastating Losses, What’s in Store for Manatees in 2014?). As she concludes, manatees “need our voices and our support now more than ever.”

Please help me support Save the Manatee Club and all they do to protect manatees. I am hoping to raise $500 by the end of the day on July 17. 25% of sales through my business will go to the cause, or you may donate directly at my YouCaring page

If you can’t contribute but would like to do something, please help by spreading the word. 

Rosie the manatee and I are counting on you!

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