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Manatee Death Toll Sets New Mortality Record With More Than 460 In 2013

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Manatee Death Toll Sets New Mortality Record With More Than 460 In 2013

From Friends of the Manatee Club
April 2013

While manatees are suffering from catastrophic red-tide-related mortality in southwest Florida, another threat is claiming manatee lives at an alarming rate on the state's east coast. Funds are needed to care for rescued manatees.

While manatees are suffering from catastrophic red-tide-related mortality in southwest Florida, another threat is claiming manatee lives at an alarming rate on the state's east coast, in Brevard County. A large and growing number of manatees have died of unknown but presumed natural causes, possibly from a different toxin or toxic syndrome, in Brevard since 2012. With vast amounts of Brevard's seagrass wiped out from a huge die off, it is unknown if manatees may be accessing other food sources or contaminants that are making them sick and killing them. With your support, we have already increased efforts to better understand and, if possible, correct what is killing these manatees on the east coast, but more help is needed. Please give to help manatees suffering from both these serious threats. Click here to donate to our Emergency Rescue Fund. (Please use promotion code PT413).

As previously reported, manatees in southwest Florida continue to suffer from exposure to red tide, in a bloom that has persisted since September 2012. Most recently, the highest concentrations have appeared in Pine Island Sound in Lee County, and in Sarasota County. Pine Island is an important manatee feeding ground. To date, at least 241 manatees in southwest Florida have already died from red tide exposure in 2013, and an additional 33 manatees died from this cause in 2012.

More than 100 miles of coastline and manatee habitat are affected by some level of red tide, from Sarasota to Lee County, and into the Florida Keys. In recent weeks, the number of manatee deaths and rescues from red tide has greatly increased.

Above, a red-tide affected manatee receives round the clock care by Lowry Park Zoo staff to prevent drowning due to seizures.

Cheer, Redlee, and Threepio, three manatees recuperating from red tide exposure, rest in the "fish bowl" at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Another manatee named Coolio, injured by a watercraft collision, is also recovering at the park. Save the Manatee Club made an immediate commitment to ensure the manatees would have enough food once they were transferred to the park.

Red tide acts as a neurotoxin in manatees, giving them seizures that can result in drowning without human intervention. Thankfully, if manatees exposed to red tide can be moved out of the affected area by trained biologists and stabilized at a critical care facility, their prognosis is very good.

Remember to call (888) 404-3922 IMMEDIATELY if you see a manatee that may be suffering from red tide exposure or any other injury.

Fortunately, many manatees had been found alive, suffering from red tide toxicity, and successfully rescued and transported to a critical care facility. These stabilized red-tide affected manatees can't be released back into their home waters where they could be re-exposed to deadly red tide, but space is needed at the critical care facilities to accommodate new red tide victims and manatees suffering from cold stress, watercraft strikes, or other ailments.

The Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), of which SMC is a charter member, has decided to move now-healthy manatees to secondary care facilities until the red tide subsides and they can be released. This is where we need your help. With so many manatees currently in rehabilitation and new facilities coming on line to assist in the care of red-tide-affected manatees, funds are needed to feed all of these hungry manatees. Even when wild plants are harvested and transported, which is less expensive than supplying boxes of produce, the costs add up. SMC is committed to helping these manatees, but we need the help of our dedicated members and caring supporters to make this happen.