Tampa Zoo worried about manatee death toll: ‘It’s really worrying’

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For the second year in a row, Florida manatees are dying at an alarming rate. A new report shows that 800 manatees died in 2022, and many environmental groups are now calling for the endangered species to be relisted as endangered.

“Over the past two years. It has been a very deadly year for manatees, with more than a thousand dying each year,” said Florida Manatees Curator at the Tampa Zoo Molly Lippincott. “There are only about 7,000 of them, so you think about 1,000 dying every year. That’s quite damaging to the species.”

The Tampa Zoo is an emergency trauma center for injured manatees throughout the region. The zoo is one of four rehabilitation facilities in Florida fighting to save the dwindling manatee population.

“It’s very worrying. We all feel scared about what’s going on with the manatees right now,” said Senior Director of Animal Health and Conservation at the Tampa Zoo Cynthia Stringfield. “We’re doing our best here at Zoo Tampa to be part of the solution. Educating people about what the problem is and what everyone can do to try and help so we don’t have another year like we did last year. “

Manatee deaths fell in 2022, but chronic starvation caused by water pollution remains a major concern

Record arctic cold over the holiday season only made matters worse.

Record arctic cold over the holiday season only made matters worse.
(Tampa Zoo)

In 2021, manatee deaths hit a 50-year high of 1,100. Numbers declined in 2022, but the death toll is still higher than average.

“We’ve had some very difficult things you know, we’ve been working hard on it and we could only save some that we didn’t really think would turn out. ​the corner and proceeded to be released. “, said Lippincott.

A baby manatee rescued in 2021 was cared for at SeaWorld Orlando.  For decades, manatees have gathered at the Florida Power & Light Co. electrical plant south of Titusville by the hundreds to take refuge in the warm waters.

A baby manatee rescued in 2021 was cared for at SeaWorld Orlando. For decades, manatees have gathered at the Florida Power & Light Co. electrical plant south of Titusville by the hundreds to take refuge in the warm waters.
(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The biggest threats facing manatees in the country are lack of food, boat strikes and cold water temperatures. Biologists have previously blamed the giant seagrass die-off for causing starvation among the endangered species, mostly on Florida’s east coast.

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After the record year, state and federal agencies established a supplemental feeding program in a lagoon in Central Florida, where many of the giant manatees migrate to during the winter.

Biologists released more than 200,000 pounds of leafy greens into the Indian River Lagoon with the intention of doubling that amount during the current cold season.

Manatees at the Tampa Zoo are being treated for stress stress syndrome.

Manatees at the Tampa Zoo are being treated for stress stress syndrome.
(Tampa Zoo)

“When we have fertilizer irrigation in certain places where the manatees go during the winter to eat, and that creates an algae bloom that blocks the sun from the food, the sea grass that they need ,” said Lippincott. “So that’s the biggest reason behind the mortality event is that they all plan to go to certain places in the winter to eat, and then they get there and there’s no food. “

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The worst cases that come in include boat strikes. The annual report showed that address and birth were on track for known causes of death in 34 counties across the state of Florida.

“So many animals are hit and killed by boats every year. We really try to spread awareness here at the zoo where we can teach people how to use boats safely around manatees,” Lippincott said.

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Florida’s budget includes $30 million that will go to saving manatees. The money will go towards expanding the state’s network of intensive care facilities, supporting campuses and supporting pilot programs.

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