For ABC Wednesday this week I have chosen one of the most gentle creatures on earth - the manatee.
The West Indian manatee is also known as the sea cow. Manatees today are found mainly in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and coastal rivers and estuaries of South America, Central America, and Southeaster North America. (The manatee is a close relative to the dugong, which is native to the eastern hemisphere.)
The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee and has been protected by the state of Florida since 1893. It was declared an endangered species in 1967 and the best estimates are that there are currently no more than 3,000 of these gentle creatures left alive in the wild.
They have no natural predators and spend most of their time lazily swimming and floating around the warm shallow waters of the coast, estuaries, and rivers eating vegetation. They move slowly and spend most of their time submerged below the surface, making them difficult to see until you are right upon them, which leads to many encounters with speed boats driven by humans. It is quite common to see manatees with scars on their backs or large chunks of their tails or fins missing - victims of the powerful screws of speeding motor boats. The manatee below is missing most of its tail for just that reason.
With their population dangerously low and under constant threat by developments that destroy their habitats, there are many organizations today that endeavor to save the manatees, such as http://www.savethemanatee.org.
Enjoy other ABC Wednesday blogs by visiting Mrs. Nesbitt's Place: http://mrsnesbittsplace.blogspot.com/