Manatees are be a common sight for Floridians who reside close to rivers and other natural waterways, but there was once a time when that wasn’t the case. These slow-moving marine mammals are somewhat of a conservation success story, with local populations coming off endangered species lists following years’ worth of stringent conservation measures.
Albeit large animals, an apparent trait of being distantly related to elephants, manatees aren’t easily seen at sea level. They only breach the surface when coming up for air, and upon disappearing beneath the water’s surface, their bland body color seemingly camouflages with the surroundings. An unfortunate result of being so difficult to spot is being inadvertently struck by oncoming boat traffic, a problem that left many manatees scarred by boat propellers and others left for dead.
After Florida’s manatee population dropped to below 1,000 specimens, conservationists knew they had to do something to turn that around. Boat speed limits were imposed and strictly enforced, and safe areas were later designated to keep manatees out of harm’s way. These efforts proved effective as manatee populations slowly creeped above 8,000, officially declassifying the animals as endangered.
Today, manatee populations are still carefully monitored, however people can now swim with the gentle giants in their natural habitat. Manatees have slowly become one of Florida’s greatest tourist attractions.