Manatee Madness

I’m working on a story about environmental threats to the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), and the unusual mortality events in which both manatees and dolphins are dying in record numbers in 2013.

The story is mostly about how development impacts the water quality in the IRL, and how that might affect the health of manatees and dolphins. But humanity also poses a direct threat to manatees, both from boat strikes as well as from wanting to get close to lovable manatees.

Treehugger recently posted a story about the latter problem, featuring a saddening time-lapse video of all the human activity around a favorite manatee winter gathering spot–a place where they are trying to keep warm and conserve energy in the winter:

Here, in a timelapse video made by Mittermeier and fellow photographer Neil Ever Osborne, you can see just how much interaction the manatees are forced to deal with all day, every day. You’ll even see a manatee stampede, which happens when a sudden loud noise onshore scares them. Mittermeier states that this happens several times a day. The video reveals just how little space manatees get for themselves, and how much more protection we need to be offering these animals who are, we cannot forget, members of an endangered species.

It doesn’t look very restful for the manatees. And the exclusion area set up is pathetically small.┬áThis is one of the many paradoxes of humanity: we often harm even the things we say we love.