November is Manatee Awareness Month in South Florida!
Whether you are looking to make South Florida your permanent home, or are planning a seasonal residency, you will probably notice right away that South Floridians really do love their our animals, and simply treasure our manatees.
In 2005, the Sunshine State declared November “Manatee Awareness Month” to promote the protection of Florida’s official marine mammal. In an article by Hilary Hanson for the Huffington Post®, “Florida takes a lot of criticism, but it’s done one thing right.” Hanson adds, “We couldn’t approve more.”
Despite the change in designation of the endangered species registry, according to CNN®, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to remove the West Indian manatee from the endangered species list and reclassify it as “threatened” after “significant improvements” in its population and habitat conditions.” Awareness and conservation are still a top priority in South Florida.
Hanson explains, “Manatees make up three out of the four species in the order Sirenia. The name is related to the sirens of Greek mythology — half-bird, half-human women who were said to lure sailors to their deaths on craggy rocks. But a real manatee would never do that! These gentle giants mostly just want to be left alone.”
As the weather turns cooler, the manatees head for warm waters. South Floridians can see these gentle giants up close and personal at a respectful distance by visiting the following according (in part) to Visit Florida®:
- TECO Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach – Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center is a designated manatee sanctuary to which manatees in large numbers return annually to the warm discharge waters of the Big Bend Power Station. Viewing platforms, tidal walkways, and an environmental education center are located at this 50-acre facility.
- Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers – Located across from Florida Power and Light and directly on the warm water discharge canal, Manatee Park is another wintertime haven where large concentrations of manatees can be seen. Several viewing areas, a butterfly garden, and picnic shelters are available.
- The Manatee Observation and Education Center, Ft. Pierce – The Manatee Observation and Education Center is a waterfront environmental education and wildlife viewing center located on Florida’s east coast in beautiful downtown Fort Pierce. The Center lies just west of the Atlantic Ocean and overlooks the nationally recognized Indian River Lagoon, a saltwater estuary, and Moore’s Creek, a freshwater tributary and historical resting spot for the Florida manatee.
- Florida Power & Light’s Manatee Viewing Center, Riviera Beach – Opened in February 2016, Florida Power & Light is constructing a, “Key-West-style center by its new power plant in Riviera Beach that will allow people to watch the manatees congregating in the warm water of the plant’s discharge zone,” according to David Fleshler, Contact Reporter at the Sun Sentinel®.
In conclusion, Hanson poses the question, “So what’s a manatee-lover to do? If you’re a resident of Florida — or just visiting – follow Defenders of Wildlife’s tips on how to respect manatee habitat.”
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Article by: Jeannie M. Ferrara