Florida Manatees Continue to Starve Despite Ongoing Efforts to Save Them

Florida Manatees continue to starve during the winter months despite extensive efforts to save them as they struggle to find an adequate source of food since poor water quality damaged their supply.

The sea cows have faced a massive die-off reaching record numbers of 1,100 deaths reported last year largely due to starvation. This year isn't any better as 97 manatees have died as of January 28, the Associated Press reported.

Martine de Wit, a manatee research scientist at the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, told WFLA-TV the manatees have been dealing with inadequate nutrition for "probably over a year now."

An emaciated #manatee was rescued today in Port Everglades by FWC & @CMAquarium staff. It was transported to @SeaWorld for rehabilitation.

Manatees eat seagrass, but their supply has dramatically diminished from polluted waters mainly caused by septic tanks and agriculture runoff, AP reported.

Due to the food shortage, de Wit said this winter has been especially hard on the manatees. Normally, manatees can survive colder temperatures, but they are starting to be more affected because of their diminished health.

The manatee's health has been extremely concerning for biologists after a wave of extreme cold brushed through Florida over the weekend, which scientists say could be fatal. However, it could be weeks before the effects set in and potentially kill more sea cows, Florida Today reported.

When temperatures drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time, Florida Today reported, manatees get "cold-stress syndrome," which can cause dehydration, weight loss and fat loss which can ultimately kill them. In 2010, cold stress killed 282 manatees in Florida.

To try and make sure the mammals are being fed and taken care of this winter, the Fish and Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have started to feed manatees romaine lettuce at a popular winter gathering spot located off the eastern coast of Florida, the AP reported.

FWC & @USFWSSoutheast staff offer supplemental food in ways that keep #manatees from associating people w/food. NEVER feed manatees yourself — it’s harmful & illegal. Learn more: http://ow.ly/4YUT50HMzFe

Wildlife officials estimate around 785 manatees gathered at Florida Power & Light plant on January 30 due to the warmer water, WFLA added. Officials said while it's impossible to know how many manatees are actually eating the lettuce, it is being moved around.

SeaWorld also announced a new initiative Friday trying to help the starving manatees. The Orlando theme park added five 40-foot pools which will fit up to 20 manatees. The park already has 28 manatees in its care, but the additional pools, which should be ready in about two weeks, will allow more sick mammals to be treated.

"We are bringing animals in that are skeletons. These animals need long-term care," said Jon Peterson, SeaWorld's chief of zoological operations, in a press release. "We've got the space. We will continue to use that space."

Florida Manatees Still Dying From Starvation
Florida manatees are still dying from starvation at alarming rates as 97 manatees have died as of January 28, 2022. Wildlife officials are trying to feed manatees romaine lettuce at a popular winter gathering spot off the coast of Florida, but it's impossible to determine how many are actually being fed. Above, a manatee eats in a recovery pool at the David A. Straz, Jr., Manatee Critical Care Center in ZooTampa at Lowry Park in Tampa, Florida, on January 19, 2021. Eva Marie Uzcategui/ AFP/Getty Images