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Sea manatees also known as sea cows are marine herbivores. They belong to the kingdom animalia , phylum chordate, class mammalian, order sirena, family trichechidae, and the genus trichechus. The manatee’s length is four meters and weighs about 1000kg. These animals are harmless and lurk around waters that are shallow. They feed on sea grasses that grow inside the sea waters. Manatees are the only animal that leave in sea water and feed on vegetation. Localities where sea manatees can be found are: the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa, Caribbean Sea, and Amazon Basin.
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The mostly studied manatees are the one in the West Indian, which migrated from the rivers of Florida since it is difficult to get the manatees from other locations, especially the ones from West Africa, where they are rarely found, and little about them is known. The Amazon manatees and the West Africa manatees are related to West Indian manatees. The above manatees are also related to the Steller’s sea cow which have gone to extinction because of hunting and the dugong (Teaney, 2004, 67)
The manatees have got gray body, taper to a puddle shaped flat tail. They have flippers which are the forelimbs which have got three to four nails. Manatees face and head are wrinkled, with snout having whiskers. The animals that are close to manatees in terms of habitation are the hyrax and the elephants. The hyrax is gopher- shaped small mammal. The manatees’ evolution is based from a plant eating wading animal.
Manatees live in slow and shallow rivers, saltwater bays, canals, estuaries, and the coastal regions. Manatees keep on migrating from time to time thus referred to as migratory species. In terms of manatees’ behavior it is that they move slowly, and gently. They spend most of their time resting, traveling and eating. They are pure herbivores, and thus they consume aquatic plants mostly the sea grass. They eat the water vegetations from the water surface and along the bottom of the water. Manatees may rest just below the water surface or submerged at the bottom of water, where they come up after an average of five minutes to breath.
The manatees will only come up to breath frequently when they are utilizing a lot of their energy. The period to which they can stay submerged is approximately 30 seconds. When these mammals are at rest, the period in which they can stay submerged is about 20 minutes (Christie, 2004, 45).
Sea manatees are now experiencing critical situations as their existence is being put into threat by the climatic changes, loss of places to live and the boats, as well as their nature of giving birth to a single calf after a length of time in most cases ranging from three to seven years. The existence of sea manatees mainly have got no natural enemy and the estimated to live for about 60 year. The big threat to these animals is the human beings. Their number around Florida is estimated to range from 1000-3000, while in other regions their exact number is not certain (Taylor, 2002, 81). As a result of the above factors the sea manatees are on extinction verge or listed to be vulnerable and are preserved well if were they habitat, despite that, in Ghana they are hunted by people together by the Aborigines tribe members in Australia.
There have been more efforts by some organizations around the world, to preserve and ensure the existence of the few available sea manatees which were left from similar destination as that of Steller’s sea manatee experienced 240 years ago.Many year back around 1741 the discovery of the giant Steller’s sea manatee occurred an island known today as the Commander Island. For about 27 years later around the year 1768 the Steller’s sea manatee came to extinction.
The reason to this was neither removal of food sources by the otters of the sea nor the change of climatic conditions, but was humans. The Steller’s sea manatee were about 2000, there before the Russian fur hunters turned the Island to be their regular stopping point. Since the sea manatee was a major nourishment source for the hunters of the fur, they would as much as possible hunt them for direct consumption and take them along their journey (Leous, Parry, 2005, 198).
For every year, about 250 manatees were hunted, and much of them were not consumed but just going to a waste. It is this reason of overexploitation that is believed to have caused the extinction of the Steller’s sea cow. Another fact that could have contributed to their extinction is that, the manatees regeneration or reproduction could not have met the over fishing that was taking place then, this is because the manatees rate of reproduction was one calf for after a period of three to seven years while the harvest rate was 250 sea cows in each year.
Nowadays, the same case is affecting the manatees, though this time the case is different from that one of hunting. The big challenge that the manatees are facing currently is the threat of being slashed by boats or ships propellers, or struck by boats, since their habitat’ nature is the shallow sea waters. The sea cows in many cases survive those collisions, but the multiple dorsal disfiguration or mutilation of the tail makes their survival difficult.
Despite the fact that these animals can survive with such injuries, this is believed to affect their population number because it reduces the survival ability of the calves or the production of the calves from those females that are wounded. Another threat to the sea manatees is the issue of food source. Despite the fact that sea cows do not face food competition among themselves, the change of the climatic conditions in the habitations is limiting the growth of the sea grasses which serves as the main food for the sea cows. Apart from climatic conditions change, pollution has been another factor that is leading to degradation of sea grasses.
Not only does the human pollution have effect on the sea manatees’ food but also has an impact on them. Together with other sea water mammals, chemical made by man now are threatening the existence of these mammals. Endocrine disruptions can be caused by these chemicals, especially the neurodevelopment and the system of thyroid (Taylor, 2002, 76). These chemicals can have different effects to different kinds of species, but may lead to progesteron concentration increase, asymmetry in wings and many other effects. The impact of these chemical on the sea manatees is not clear known but it is believed that the chemicals effects, affects them the same way it affects the other sea water animal.
Together with change of climatic conditions, the chemical effects can lead to consequences that are dramatic, as it has been shown that animals on exposure to such chemical experience difficulties in adapting to different lifestyles compared to the ones not exposed to such situations.
Despite the fact that manatees like living in warm water, this change in climate conditions may have adverse effects on the survival ability of the calf and rate of reproduction, even though this is yet to be looked into properly. But this change of climate affects source of their food as indicated above.
There have been a lot of efforts by different organizations to save the lives of manatees. In Florida, there is a plan called Florida manatee recovery plan designed purposely to conserve the sea cows. The plan was developed after a witness of increasing death rate of sea manatees in Florida. The plan was also developed as a result of Endangered Species Act. The recovery plan is currently coordinated by the United States of America Fish and wildlife Service (USFWS). This body has gone ahead and established a list of duties and responsibilities which are directed towards manatees’ recovery from their present endangered status.
In side the manatees’ recovery team is the Save the Manatee Club that carries out the duties and the responsibilities in the plan which is under the USFWS auspices. In addition, within the manatee Technical Advisory Council is still the Save the Manatee club, which is a legislature body for the officials of the government on the protection issues of manatee. Other measures for conservation deemed the significance to save the manatees are: mortality, research covering the biology, distribution and population, habitat and behavior of manatees; management plans implementation; posting of fine levies and speed signs for acquisition of public creation of sanctuaries and critical habitat (Leous, Parry, 2005, 204).
To conclude the threat of manatee’s existence is in the hands of the ones who are putting efforts to save them, that is the human beings. There are group of people around the world who are endeavoring to save sea cows but no much progress is being witnessed. In Florida, the government has enacted some laws to protect the sea manatees, and those who kill or harm these mammals face imprisonment or a fine. Regardless of such laws, the death of manatees is increasing as time goes by and the boaters seem not to bother the refuges and sanctuary of manatees. Despite much reading about these animals, it looks difficult to understand which is the best mechanism to be adopted to save and ensure the survival of the sea cows, since some people seems not to bother about their existence.
The ban of boating and fishing in manatees habitats this option seemed to be the way out but it is turning to be impossible request (Cheever, 2004, 52). If the threat of manatee’s life keeps its phase as it is at the moment, these mammals will disappear on the face of the earth. This implies that there is probability that manatees will face the same destiny as that of Steller’s sea cow if no immediate and serious measures are taken. On my point of view is that, every breathing creature on earth has its rights of existence, and it looks awkward to see that it the behavior of human being that are endangering the lives of many species on earth, even some ending up getting extinct. Man should understand the role these species play on his life and the rest of the species and adjust his activities and behavior.
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