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Why so many manatees are suddenly dying

'It's heartbreaking.'

3/3/2021 2:23:00 PM

In early 2021, manatee deaths have suddenly spiked

'It's heartbreaking.'

the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). A combination of factors, including problematic trends in polluted waters and depleted food, could be driving the die-off event of these charismatic mammals, dubbed"sea cows." But the certain cause or causes of this abrupt spike are still being investigated, as a majority (68 percent) of dead manatees have not yet been necropsied by the state.

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"It's difficult to make a determination," explained Edie Widder, a marine biologist and senior scientist at the Ocean Research and Conservation Association in Florida, a conservation organization."Without the data, I don't see how you can make any kind of judgment."

Over the last five years, anaverage of 117 manateeswere recorded dead over the same January-February time frame, meaning three times as many manatees have died so far in 2021. There have been too many sick or dying manatees to save in the estuaries off the Atlantic coast of Florida. headtopics.com

"It was so significant here that we couldn't intervene in many cases," explained Patrick Rose, the executive director and aquatic biologist for Save the Manatee Club, a manatee conservation organization. Apartnership of conservation groups

, including Save the Manatee Club, has already rescued over 50 struggling manatees this year and returned dozens back to the water, Rose said.The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it's probing the spike in deaths."The FWC is investigating a high level of manatee mortalities and responding to manatee rescues on the central and south Atlantic coast of Florida," the agency said in an email."The investigation is in progress, and we will be sharing information as it becomes available," the agency added.

Some of the dead manatees died from cold stress, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported. This is often normal. Manatees are warm-adapted animals thatcan struggle during winter.But many manatees could be starving."We’re seeing a significant number of manatees dying from starvation and malnutrition," Rose said. This suggests manatees might be victims of environmental decline and pollution, which ultimately kills off the food, seagrass, they devour."Lack of forage is a big driver," said Rose, noting the depletion of seagrass in some important manatee habitats.

Read more: Mashable »

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