Florida Manatees Eating Lettuce in a Pilot Program

ST. Petersburg, Florida (AP) — Manatees at risk of starvation have begun eating lettuce for the first time as native seagrass is dead due to water pollution. Experimental feeding program, Florida’s wildlife authorities said on Friday.

The test facility in the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast was the first to consume romaine lettuce on Thursday, with more manati participating, said the director of the provisioning department of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s efforts. Romaine said.

“We think it’s important,” Mezich said at a remote press conference. “When the animals are there, we continue to serve food and hope they will take advantage of it.”

The program adds cabbage and a second type of lettuce to seduce the manatees, also known as sea cows. These are all common foods given to manatees in rehab facilities.

An unprecedented feeding program is the state and federal response to last year’s record numbers. 1,101 recorded manatee deaths..Pollution from agriculture, cities and other sources of pollution Triggered algae outbreak We have thinned out the seagrass beds that manatees depend on — especially during the cold winter months.

On Friday, near the Florida Power & Light plant’s feeding area, about 25-35 manatees were seen draining the warm water that animals prefer when the water temperature drops. Hundreds of people were found in the air in nearby areas, said Tom Reinert, FWC’s South Regional Director.

Officials said there were no immediate plans to extend the feeding program beyond Brevard County. It remains illegal for people to feed wild manatees on their own.

“This is a pilot program and we are trying to learn as much as we can,” says Reinert. But he added that seagrass restoration and reduction of water pollution are long-term answers to the hunger problem.

“We need a healthy lagoon to support the seagrass,” he said. “We cannot feed them all.”

In addition to feeding experiments, authorities are working with many facilities to rehabilitate suffering manatees that have been found to be alive. These include Florida Zoos, Sea World Theme Parks and Oceanariums. According to officials, there were 159 rescued manatees in 2021, some of whom required long care and some were returned to the wild.

There is About 7,520 wild manatees Currently in Florida waters, according to state statistics. The slow-moving Maruojiris has been pushed to restore the endangered species tag in light of starvation death, but has rebounded enough to be listed as endangered rather than endangered. ..