Archive | December 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone

Even Winter says Merry Christmas too (photo of Winter was taken by a CMA photographer and the card was made on

Merry Christmas Everyone and may you all have a Happy New Year too. I hope you all got the chance to see Winter and her friends at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium this year and may you all get that same chance next year too.

Of Whales and Man: The Story of Whale Trainer John J.Hargrove

I got to meet John for the first time in August 2010 during a camp session at SeaWorld San Antonio.

John. J Hargrove is a killer whale trainer at SeaWorld San Antonio who I first met in August 2010 during a camp that I attended at the time. There, John shared with us his story of how he got started in working with killer whales before going on to share some stories about his experience working with these large marine mammals. He has been working with killer whales at SeaWorld parks in California and Texas, and Marine Land in France for the past eighteen years. His intellect and life story is a very interesting case of how one person’s passion for animals and the sea can sometimes result into a life-long career of working with them over a long period of time. John’s story is very unique because not only does it focuses on the life story of a boy from Orange, Texas who grew up to be one of the world’s most influential whale trainers, but also, a story about how he has grown to love and appreciate the animals he works with everyday.

John interacts with Corky in this undated photo taken at SeaWorld San Diego (photo by John Hargrove)

Growing up in Orange, Texas, John has always loved animals since childhood. At the age of six, he was captivated by a killer whale show at SeaWorld and it was then, he decided that he wanted to one day work with these animals as a trainer. John now had his heart set on wanting to become a marine mammal trainer, that at the tender age of twelve, he wrote a letter to SeaWorld for the first time and it later answered by Don Blasko, a SeaWorld trainer at the time. While John has loved animals all his life, it was mother who inspired him. She would show him how to love and respect animals by taking in homeless animals and making them part of their family. Just to make matters a little more interesting, John developed a strong fascination with water after his mother almost drowned in a boating accident when he was still young which was very strange for someone who nearly lost a parent in a traumatic accident. After graduating from high school and college several years later, John began to work at SeaWorld San Diego in 1993. He began his SeaWorld career as an apprentice and made his way up in positions over time in the years he had been in California.

For John, working with killer whales is day that changes everyday because he, like many of the other animal trainers at marine mammal facilities get to see new things with the animals while they vary their days with their animals in order to keep them from being bored and ensuring that they would be stimulated throughout the day. He also values the relationships he has developed over the years with the whales because not only is it all built on years of love and trust, but it’s also beneficiary for the animals too. One such activity that John enjoys building these relationships in the water by performing waterworks with the killer whales. While many people would find such a practice to be risky, John on the other hand, sees waterworks as both fun and and relaxing. It also strengthens his bond with his whales and it also helps communicate how much he loves them….For him, this is known as the power of touch. In fact, it was doing waterworks for the first time is John’s proudest moment of his whale training career. His first experience doing waterworks was with a killer whale named Corky after working hard during his first few years with the large marine mammals even though he had so much yet to learn about working with killer whales in the years that would follow. As a killer whale trainer, John knows the risks of working with these large 5,000 pound animals who cannot be forced to anything and can only do behaviors voluntary. He’s also never afraid to work with these animals either because it’s truly a commitment to trust the animal and get that level of trust by knowing what he has invested the time he needed to nurture the relationship he has with his whale. Over all, it just takes time.

John, like all SeaWorld trainers know both the risks and benefits of working with killer whales like Takara (photo by John Hargrove)

Of all the whales John has worked with over the eighteen years he has worked at SeaWorld, Takara, a twenty-year-old female happens to be one of his favorite whales. He has worked with her ever since she was a calf in her native San Diego back in the 90’s. While working with all the whales has given him a higher level of understanding how whales are intelligent and display they would freely interact with both people and each other, John says that watching Takara and her mother Kasatka have, raise, and teach their calves how to understand the killer whale way of life has been a truly inspiring and educational site to watch because watching mothers raise and teach their calves in human care is show many people are able to observe killer whale behavior in ways that would be almost impossible to gain out in the wild during a field survey. To this day, John still works with Takara at her current home at SeaWorld San Antonio and will often work with her young daughter Sakari too, who often mimics her mother’s behaviors during training sessions and shows. Over the years that John has worked at SeaWorld, he has realized how not so many people think of seeing various waterworks-related stunts can be a very cool site to see. However, he does know that others who visit the park often see the practice of waterworks as being more than just an act for the killer whale shows, but a sign of an inspirational connection between man and animal and they, like John himself, can clearly see the mutual love and respect that he and his whales all have for each other. He has seen many people who watch him and his whales perform show become either unemotional or emotional when they glimpse at the site of a trainer bonding with the animal he loves and he believes that it’s because killer whales are among the most magnificent animals in the world and they do provoke a very strong emotional response from people.

Throughout his thirty-eight years of life, John has been lucky enough to have many friends and loved ones to have supported him on his journey to become a killer whale trainer and as a forever career. However, he has admitted that there were many who were a little negative and discouraging because it’s likely because in the past, there had been incidents involving killer whales accidentally hurting their trainers. Despite all of this, John has landed a successful career that has brought him to two SeaWorld parks and a marine park in France. However, the lesson he has learned is the fact that you should never be afraid at all if you are alone when it comes to following your dreams and goals and always allow your heart to lead the way.

Note: This entry is from an essay I wrote for my Human Growth and Development class on December 8th, 2011. I was very proud of this essay and how interesting it was, that I decided to share it on my blog.

Lolita The Killer Whale: Why She Can’t Be Released

Lolita spyhops out of curiosity at the Miami Seaquarium in June 2009. I will NOT talk about Lolita's tank for we all agree that it's so old and outdated, that the Seaquarium should consider building her a larger tank that's big enough for both her, her dolphin companions, and even a couple orca companions too.

In recent years, there has been a lot of argument over whether or not Lolita, a 45-year-old Killer Whale at the Miami Seaquarium, should be released back into the wild because the community of orcas where she came from has been well known to researchers since the 1970′s.   This article will talk about why Lolita is not a great candidate for release and why she would have to remain in human care for the remainder of her life even if it involves moving her to either another facility or building her a new tank.

1. Lolita has lived in captivity for 41 years and has fully trusted people.

Since 1970, Lolita has been cared for by trainers and vets at the Miami Seaquarium. Over the years, Lolita has learned to trust her trainers thanks to her possible brother/cousin Hugo, who taught her how to trust and deal with trainers as well as enjoy daily routines.  Lolita’s trainers spend their time interacting with her, especially if there’s no show going on. Trainers will spend time playing with her and the Pacific White Sided Dolphins who share her pool.  Playtime for any animal is important as it strengthens relationships and gives Lolita exercise.  She is also curious about people too. Before shows starts, Lolita will sometimes come up out of curiosity and check them out.  The only two things I do believe that Lolita really needs are a bigger and better tank and a few orca companions although she does get along with her dolphin tank mates. She has her own schedule like any SeaWorld orca too and does not find change to be reinforcing. She’s fed at 9:45 in the morning and gets a good two hours of rest and receives daily play sessions along with her dolphin companions. She is not forced to perform in any shape or form and can refuse to perform anytime. She is fed regardless of what behavior she exhibits.

2. Although Lolita’s pod is known to researchers, there is no guarantee that they would accept her a pod mate.

One anti-captivity argument is the fact that Lolita’s pod is well known to researcher.. While it is true that her birth pod, the L-25 pod has been studied by researchers for over three decades now, there is little to no guarantee that they would accept her as a legitimate member of their pod. You see, killer whales are social animals and most pods will only affiliate with whoever their parents have introduced them too such as other pods they normally travel with. When you think back with Keiko, all interactions with wild pods ended with Keiko returning to the boat were his care takers were aboard because the majority of interactions he had with them were aggressive. For the living members of the L-25 pod, Lolita would considered a stranger to them rather than another pod mate. Also, in the case of rescued juvenile orca Springer, interactions with her pod were aggressive until one of her aunts stepped in to raised her.  Most of the members of the L-25 sub pod who were alive at the time of her 1970 capture have died over the years and only two pod mates who were alive during that time are still alive. They are L-25 (Ocean Sun who was believed to have been born in 1928) and her supposed sister L-12 (Alexis who is believed to have been born in 1933) and both animals have been argued to have possibly be Lolita’s birth mother. While long-time whale researcher Ken Balcomb argued in a 2003 documentary that L-12, Alexis was her mother, other activists suggests her possible sister Ocean Sun. Yet, unlike Corky, there are no known photographs of Lolita with either one of these animals that were taken prior to the 1970 Penn Cove capture. So, only DNA testing would tells us the truth.

3. Even if Lolita was moved to a sea pen, she would still be a captive animal that requires human care. 

Most activists who want to see Lolita moved to a sea pen don’t realize that by having Lolita reside at a sea pen, she would still be in captivity, except, she would reside in an enclosed area that would be surrounded by the ocean. While the pen itself would take months to build, Lolita herself would still require long-term care by zoo professionals that she currently receives at Miami Seaquarium, except, this care would be possible through public support and public funding which can only be made possible by the sea pen being opened to the public, this will help with funds needed for her care. Lolita should not be kept alone in the pen, and whoever  is operating the sea pen would be required to find a suitable companion for her because again, there’s no guarantee that her wild pod would ever recognize her a legitimate family member.

4. The Salish Sea is still under threat as a marine habitat thanks to habitat destruction, increase tourism, and pollution.

While various pollutants have been banned in the United States in the 1970′s, pollution is still threatening the Salish Sea’s marine ecosystem. For example, toxic substances accumulate in higher concentrations as they move up the food chain. As the top predator in the Pacific Northwest, Killer Whales are considered to be the most polluted marine mammals in the oceans. The toxic build up of pollution starts before birth when the mother passes these pollutants on to her offspring and later through nursing. In the Pacific Northwest, the Chinook salmon, the primary food source for Southern Resident Killer Whales is endangered due to stream-side logging, increase in agricultural development, spread of disease and competition by salmon hatcheries, and over-fishing worldwide. The lack of wild salmon has caused orcas to not have enough fat reserves that would ensure their survival during the long winter months. It has been observed that the orcas of Salish Sea are not fat and healthy as they should be, due to summer gorging; it causes a lot of concerns about their survival and their well-being in the coming months. The Salish Sea commonly crowded with a variety of boats coming in and out of their habitats for various reasons. During the summer months, much of the Salish Sea is busy with boat traffic and that is noise pollution. Of all the known senses of cetaceans, sound is the sense they rely on the most. With shipping, marine tourism and navy activity every increasing in the ocean, so much noise is being introduced into cetacean habitats, thus, interrupting their normal behavior, and even driving them away from feeding and breeding areas they rely on for survival. Recent studies have shown that noise pollution, especially navy sonar, has been linked to mass standings, and severe hearing damage in cetaceans. Cetaceans rely on sound to navigate, communicate with other animals, find and catch food.

5. If Lolita was released and is not accepted into a wild pod, there could be a chance that she could become a “wild-friendly cetacean”. While we may be able to teach Lolita how to hunt, we can’t teach her the ways of wild orcas, like how to avoid boats, and use sonar to navigate through murky waters. If Lolita was released and not accepted by her wild pod, her story could end like Keiko’s did; he traveled across the Atlantic Ocean alone where ended up in Norway and began interacting with boaters, and ultimately The Salish Sea is known for its summer boat traffic, a friendly Killer Whale would not be a safe Killer Whale. L98 Luna was a good example of this.  He was boat friendly and was eventually killed by the propellers of a tug boat.   If Lolita approaches boats she puts herself in danger and puts the boaters in danger. This could create a very damaging situation.  The chances of Lolita being re-captured before she is killed would be very low.

I have made my case regarding Lolita and  it’s concluded that Lolita cannot be released back into the wild but, remain in human care for the rest of her life. There’s no guarantee that releasing her would be successful and she is not an experiment, nor should be treated like one. I would suggests that she should be given either a bigger tank that would be large enough to house her and her dolphin companions with the possibility of one day acquiring another Killer Whale companion or be moved to a SeaWorld park where she could at least be around other orcas. However, there is little chance to no chance of her ever being moved to another facility because Lolita does not like change.

Big thanks to Nicole Perkins for editing this blog entry in hopes convince activists that Lolita is not a great candidate for release. Thanks again Nicole, your help was great one.


A Seagull Rescue to Remember

Seagulls can become entangled as a result of coming into contact with fishing gear and other objects that don't belong in the ocean (photo by .

One summer in 2009, I saved the life of an injured seagull whose right wing was entangled by small fishing nets. My mother and I were walking down a beach near Quincy, MA when we stopped by to the disturbing site of an injured seagull. Although the bird showed no sign of being in distress, it did however, looked like it was in some sort of pain. So I went up to the lifeguard and I told her about the injured bird and asked if there was anything we could do help it. Sadly, she replied by saying that the bird was better off being dead than saved. I was so upset that I had my mother call the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA to report an injured seagull. Before long, the aquarium sent animal control to pick up the bird in hope to rehabilitate animal. I helped this bird because I just could not watch it suffer a slow but, painful death.

If you see an entangled sea bird:

1.  Never attempt to feed the injured bird because it can bite.

2. Do not try to handle or bother the bird in any way. Also, be sure you keep pets and children away from it too.

3. Call wildlife officials right away and be sure you give them the exact location of the injured bird so they can get to it right away.

4. Let wildlife officials do their job by taking the bird in for rehabilitation.

Oil in The Water: A Report on How the Gulf Oil Spill Is Affecting Cetaceans, Sea Turtles, and Birds

It could be years before anyone knows the full impact of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill

On April 20th, 2010, The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. It killed about 11 oil workers and caused the entire rig to sink into the Gulf about two days later. As a result, more than 206 million gallons of oil spilled into the gulf waters which would go on to affect more than 9,436 marine animals (NOAA, 2011). The animal victims were birds, cetaceans, and sea turtles and many of these animals are either endangered, or threatened. However, while most of the animals that were recovered from the oil spill were rescued and rehabilitated, others sadly, were not so lucky. In fact, the large majority of these oil spill victims have either died or have never been found. While studies are currently being done by wildlife officials to learn about the effects the Gulf oil spill is having on wildlife, it may be more than 20 years before we would learn about the full effects on wild marine animals and their habitats. This recent oil spill in the gulf coast has been taking it’s toll on wildlife, including dolphins, turtles, and birds, on a long-term scale.

Of the nine dolphin rescues that have taken placed during the oil spill, only one dolphin, a juvenile male dolphin named Louie was successfully rehabilitated. (Photo by

During the oil spill, which lasted for six months, about 100 cetaceans were collected from oil spill inflicted areas (NWF, 2011). Cetaceans like bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales, have no fur which can be oiled and since they have blubber to help them prevent internal heat loss, they do no need fur for that purpose (NOAA, 2010); this means that cetaceans can not develop hypothermia like seals and sea otters can when in contact with oil. Still, oil could harm then in many ways. For example, when dolphins surfaced to take a breath of air, the oily waters can get into their blowholes before entering their lungs which can then, make breathing very difficult for them (New England Aquarium, 2010). To make matters worse, oil has been known to cause vision damage, since the oil can get into eyes of cetaceans. Oil can make it harder for whales and dolphins to catch and digest their food. For the large baleen whales, like the Bryde’s whale, oil can harm the baleen they depend on for filter feeding, thereby, deceasing their ability to feed, which could then, lead to starvation (NOAA, 2010). Overall, oil has been known to cause intestinal damage to cetaceans and even effect whale and dolphin health on a long term scale. As of January 2011, It has now been reported that bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico may now be experiencing reproduction failure as a result of this spill. This is because researchers had been discovering the bodies of dead dolphin calves, many of which were stillborn, premature, or have died shortly after birth (National Geographic, 2011). The spill has seen at least nine live dolphin rescues that have occurred throughout the Gulf region (NOAA, 2011). However, of those rescues, only one dolphin, a juvenile male bottlenose dolphin named Louie, was successfully rehabilitated and was later transferred to the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, FL in February 2011 (Segal, 2011). However, while the oil spill did have a lot of impact on most dolphin habitats throughout the Gulf Coast, one population of bottlenose dolphins in Orange Beach, Alabama was determined to have been not affect by the Gulf oil spill (NOAA, 2010). Currently, research is being done by NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) to determine the oil spill’s effect on a population of endangered sperm whales in the Gulf Coast for, many cetacean experts had pointed out in the past that the deaths of three whales would push this particular population into extinction, just like the effects of Alaska’s Exxon Valdez oil spill did with a resident killer whale population in the 1990’s and 2000’s (Than, 2010).

After being rescued, oil-covered sea turtles were bathed using dish water soap to remove the oil off their skin (photo by NEAQ).

Sea turtles have inhabited the Gulf of Mexico for more about 100 million years. Five species of sea turtle, the green, Kemp’s Ridley, loggerhead, hawks-bill and leatherback sea turtles can all be found in Gulf coast waters and they were all put at a great risk by the BP oil spill (National Wildlife Federation, 2011). Many sea turtles nest on Gulf Coast beaches that range from Mexico, to Florida. Because oil can damage turtle nests, wildlife volunteers in Alabama developed new ways to monitor turtle nests in beaches where the oil did not hit. The new methods included cleaning up any oil tar that may have washed up these beaches while conducting nighttime surveys along side clean-up crews; this criteria would start at nighttime, for, this was the time between April and October when female sea turtles came to these Alabama beaches to lay their eggs (Alabama Sea However, the hatching season began to approach, there was a lot of public concern about newly hatched turtles entering the oil covered waters of the Gulf. If the hatch lings were to emerge on oiled-covered beaches, they can suffer from surface exposure, due to short-term exposure to oil tar that would cover the beaches where they hatched as they make it to the water (National Wildlife Federation, 2011). Just to make matters worse, when these turtle hatchlings do make it into water, it would be no safe haven either. Out in the ocean, young turtles rely on seaweed to serve as a shelter that both protect them from predators, and simply, to rest. However, when the seaweed that the young animals rely on as a main habitat got covered in oil, the hatchlings were to doomed to their deaths, because once seaweed is covered in oil, it suffocates and becomes deprived of sunlight. Therefore, the hatchlings, had no protection what so ever. So, in response to public concern about the oil affecting turtle hatchlings and nests, biologists throughout the country began to relocate more than 275 sea turtles nests from the Gulf coast to beaches near the Kennedy Space Center in hopes to prevent a high hatchling mortality rate (Lelis, 2010). By the end of the 2010 summer season, sea turtle biologists estimated about over 15,000 sea turtle hatchlings made it to safe waters of Florida’s Atlantic coast (National Geographic, 2011). Meanwhile, oil can also cause turtles to become both sick and injured. For example, turtles can develop fatal respiratory problems, like pneumonia and cause breathing difficulties when the animals breathe the deadly vapors (New England Aquarium, 2011). When the turtles were first rescued, they were mainly covered in oil, which can also, cause their skin to come off as a result of burning. So, to de-oil the animals, rescuers used dish washing soap to clean the oil off the animal and the process lasted for up to hour. In fact, NOAA statistics show us that about 575 sea turtles were rescued and rehabilitated by biologists and zoo professionals throughout the Gulf coast while 397 of these animals were released by into the wild (NOAA, 2011).

Not only did birds become sick and injured from being covered in oil, their habitats were affected by this disaster as well.

Of all the animals that have been victimized by the 2010 Gulf coast oil spill, birds were the most common victims of this environmental disaster. About 8,183 of the animal victims of the Gulf oil spill were aquatic birds that rely on marshlands and beaches as critical nesting and feeding grounds (NOAA, 2011). The oil causes their feathers to both, mat and separate in which, it could cause them to lose both, buoyancy and the ability to regulate their body temperature. The birds need to keep their feathers peen, then, they would be able to keep themselves warm, keep parasites off their feathers, stay dry, and ensure that the feathers remain in good shape (National Wildlife Federation, 2011). As a result the oil-covered survivors are captured and taken into wildlife rehabilitation facilities where they would be rehabilitated. The rescue efforts were very successful that, In total, about 1,246 sea birds were successfully released back into the wild throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle (International Bird Rescue). Yet, despite the successful rescue efforts, the oil spill did a large amount of damage to hundreds of seabird nesting grounds throughout the Louisiana coastline. Once the oil hit those nesting grounds, not only were the nests now contaminated with oil, the eggs got covered in the oil as well. This meant that when the birds were trying to escape the incoming oil, they were also deserting their nests and leave their now too soft, and too thin eggs behind (New England Aquarium, 2010). Experts who have studied bird colonies in Raccoon Island, Louisiana had admitted to not planning to rescue the nesting birds because they feared that they could have disrupted entire colonies like causing adults to kill their chicks and abandoning their nests (Brown, 2010). In the spring of 2011, bird experts from the National Audubon Society reported that some nesting colonies of endangered brown pelicans returned to their oil-inflicted nests; yet, they have insisted that it could be many years before the extend damage of their food supply is known (National Geographic, 2011). The most tragic sight that beach goers have been seeing lately is the sight of small shorebirds that are now feeding on oil tar along with their prey while at the same time, get their tiny feet and feathers covered with oil and bringing the tar back to their at-risk nests.

Unless efforts are made to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf Coast, The Future of the Gulf of Mexico's marine ecosystem remains uncertain. (photo by National Geographic)

While the total impact of the Gulf oil spill may not be known for many years, the effect that it had on wildlife in the past year is shocking. In the past year since the oil spill first happened, dolphins faced a huge unusual mortality rate, sea turtle eggs put at risk of never hatching because of the oil covered the nests while researchers worked to relocate the surviving nests to the Atlantic coast, and birds, victims of being oil-covered now have to live with nesting in contaminated nesting grounds and suffer a high chick mortality rate. It’s safe to conclude that the oil spill is right now having and having a lot of negative effects on animals native the Gulf coast. For example, most species of dolphins are not endangered, but counting all the dolphin deaths that have occurred since the oil spill is troubling because once a dolphin dies, it’s body sinks to the bottom of the sea; so, it’s hard to get a full count of how many more dolphins died than what the NOAA statistics report (Animal Planet, 2011). So while full surveys on post-oil spill animal moralities will take twenty years or so to complete, it’s safe to say that oil spills can be prevented. First, It has been recommended that oil engineers should always check for any leaks that might be suspicious while being cautious at the same time when both fueling and de-fueling because oil spills often happen because of employee carelessness (, 2010). As for if a person comes across a stranded animal, alive or dead, NOAA recommends for everyone to call their stranding hotline to report a sick, distressed, orphaned, dead, or injured animal. That way, the networks can respond to this stranding quickly and determine how and why the animals strand. That way, everyone would be doing their part in preventing oil spills and keeping the oceans oil free. Overall, the number one thing to do to ensure that no oil spill would ever happen is educating the public. Through education weather if it’s at a marine life facility, or on a eco-tour boat, educating the public about the effects that oil spills can have on animals is on thing that would ensure both a change in attitude towards wildlife and develop a new awareness about how oil spills can affect wildlife and the habitats they depend on.

Only education and a change in attitude towards the Gulf Coast along with long term research will eventually preserve the wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico.

Why is the Florida Manatee Endangered?

the Florida manatee, which is the closest relative to the elephant, first appeared in the fossil record around 50 million years ago. (photo by yours truly Jenna)


The Florida manatee is considered to be one of Florida’s most symbolic marine mammals in the state of Florida. As the sub-species of the West Indian Manatee, this species can be found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats throughout Florida and other coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico (Reeves). First appearing in the fossil record about 50 million years ago, manatees first appeared in the shallow bays and rivers of Florida around 15 million years ago (FWCC). They are also an instead favorite of scuba divers and kayakers who enjoy touring Florida’s wildlife parks for, they have been known to be very curious about the approaching people. Despite their popularity, manatees are one of the most endangered marine mammals in North America due to fishery conflict (better known as fishing entanglement), habitat loss and boat collisions. Of all These three causes, habitat loss in coastal areas has done a huge impact on manatees, because it has done a lot of damage to the the marine vegetation, and sea grass beds that they depend on. As a tragic result, chemical pollution that is produced from these newly developed coastal areas that travel into manatee habitats has now impaired their immune system; thus, putting them at risk for life threating infections (Bagheera). In fact, there are believe to be no more than 3,000
manatees remaining in US water. As a marine mammal species, they are legally protected by US national law under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which prohibits any killing, capture, or inhumane harassment of these gentle giants for any purpose (SeaWorld).

Many manatees often fall victim to boat collisions.The first situation behind why manatees are endangered is due to boat collisions.

In 2010, a total of 83 manatees were killed by boat collisions throughout the state of Florida (FFWCC). This is because manatees have to go up to the surface in order to breathe air once every 10-15 minutes or else, they may drown. Another reason why boat collisions kill manatees is because they are slow moving animals. When a boat approaches, a manatee may have very little, or no time to escape the passing watercraft; thus, making it very vulnerable to the boat’s hull or propeller as it moves through shallow water (Rao, and Kimerly). In many cases, most manatees die from their injuries associated with these brutal collisions. For the very few animals who do survive these incidents, the scar patterns end up becoming the main method off identifying individual manatees when conducting a survey on them. In a 12-year-old study, researchers concluded that manatees continued to travel to the same feeding or breeding areas regardless, of the number of boats that were present in these areas. However, the use of sanctuaries by the animals did increase for, these areas provide a safe haven for them when it comes to feeding and reproduction purposes (Rao, and Kimerly).

Entanglement can cause permanent injury to manatees and other wildlife.

The second situation behind the endangerment of the Florida manatee is entanglement in fishing gear. Just like dolphins and sea turtles, manatees can easily get themselves entangled in fishing line while feeding. This is because manatees feed by grasping their upper lips and flippers on to aquatic vegetation. There hooks and fishing line get discarded after getting entangled in aquatic plants that the manatees feed on. As a result, the manatees, consequently, either swallow or get themselves entangled in fishing gear around the flippers or tail (Save the Manatee Club). Sometimes, the hooks can end up in the lips, mouth and internal organs of the animals too. Entanglement can lead to infections, long-term injuries, and even death. Manatees can also get themselves entangled by crab traps, thus, causing a huge problem for the marine mammals. The manatees find themselves entangled in ropes that connect traps to small buoys at the surface. Despite their small size, these traps contain heavier weight than hooks and fishing line, that, they can cause more server injuries. In many cases, the manatees end up drowning in the process. But for those who do survive, they have been sighted dragging the heavy dragging these traps for several miles before dying from an injury-induces infection.

During the Winter months, manatees are often seen residing near power plants and springs.

Finally, the reason why Florida manatees are considered to be endangered is because of habitat loss. As a tropical sea animal, manatees spend their entire lives in warm water that is no colder than 65 degrees (Fox). While they may spend most of their time around Florida waters, some manatees may migrate to waters off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas. However, development
along coastal regions of the Southeastern United States has resulted in loss of habitat area for the manatees (Fox). In one year alone, the population of coastal side towns in Florida and other Southeastern states grew to more than 1,000 people per day. To make matters worst, surveys done on manatee have shown a twenty-year increase in manatees migrating to artificial water refuges in the
winter time since there are a very few natural refuges that still exist within the state of Florida. These artificial refuges, which are located near seaside power plants, are small in comparison to natural refuges (DRC). As a result, manatee colonies overcrowd these tiny refuges that, it has been known to increase the spread of disease among the animals, and effect red tide locations. Because artificial refuges are run by power plants, these businesses are at risk of shutting down permanently. If these power plants were to shut down, then, the refuges they run would be to cold for the manatees to stay during the winter months, because power plants keep them warm throughout the winter months. This can result in a phenomenon called “cold-stunning”, which is a form a hypothermic reaction when manatees are exposed to cold water temperatures for a long period of time.

Zoological facilities like SeaWorld and the Lowry Park Zoo continue to rescue and rehabilitate sick, orphaned, and injured manatees in trouble each year.

  Despite the threats that have caused Florida manatees to remain on the endangered species list, there has been a number of efforts to protect manatees and their habitats. In the case of the boat collision issue, the establishment of manatee sanctuaries has made it possible to reduce boat activity on manatee populations by allowing a small number of boats and tourists in critical manatee habitats, especially during holiday weekends and vacationing seasons (Rao, and Kimerly) . At the same time, observation by biologists has increased to monitor all manatee/boat interactions in hopes to prevent future collisions. To prevent entanglement in manatees, fishermen should avoid fishing in areas were manatees and other marine mammals are known to feed, breed, and raise their young. They should also not dispose any fishing gear in the water, because then, manatees, and other marine animals can easily get entangled in them (NOAA). Even a small amount of gear can lead to injury or death in a manatee. Finally, in the case of habitat destruction, there has been some effort to establish manatees sanctuaries and prevent further development in newly declared wild places. This does include some coastal areas that are declared as a sanctuary (Save the Manatee Club). In response to the high mortality rate in manatees, zoological parks in Florida that are authorized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to rescue troubled wildlife have put in a series of efforts to rescue and rehabilitate sick, orphaned,and injured manatees. In one year alone, one marine life facility rescued a total of 13 manatees, while six were released back into the wild (SeaWorld). With conservation efforts continuing, there is hope that the Florida manatee will be saved from extinction.

Wildlife Heroes: True Role Models Worth Looking Up To

Who is a better role model? Please Be the Judge.........


Back when my parents where in grade school, the Jacques Cousteau specials,  the original Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, The True Life Adventures, and Flipper where among the biggest TV shows and documentaries that captivated the American public with their ability to connect people to the natural world the beauty and power of nature that could not be seen anywhere else. In fact, some of these popular shows like Flipper went on to encourage sympathy towards the public over certain animals that were once considered to be either pest or simply, dangerous.  As time went on in years after the last Flipper show ended, these shows and documentaries would go on expose the problems that animals were facing out in the wild like habitat destruction, poaching, and over-fishing, issues that may have inspired the first environmental groups of the 60’s and 70’s to be established in hopes to encourage the public to take responsibility for  environmental wrong doings and start caring for the planet and it’s wild places and inhabitants. In the United States, such movements and public concerns about various animal issues had led to the establishment of three federal laws (The Animal Welfare Act, The Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act), all of which are dedicated to protecting animals and their habitats. Today, in this ever changing world where celebrities like Snooki, Heidi Montag, the cast of Teen Mom and the Kardashians continue to make headlines thanks to  “being famous for being famous”, there are some amazing people from all walks of life who strive on making a difference and follow the footsteps that the late Steve Irwin has left behind and become “wildlife warriors” in their own right.

Making a difference involves a little love and passion. Just ask these SeaWorld trainers.

Why wildlife heroes? It’s because these people (Julie Scardina, Jeff Corwin, Dyan DeNapoli, and SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue Team, ect.) continue to make a difference in every shape as well as on every level. Some of these people, like Julie Scardina for example, continues to educate the public on wildlife by showing off some of her fellow animal ambassadors on a number of TV shows while talking to her audience about each and every one of them. Meanwhile, veterinarians like Dr. Chris Dold, along with SeaWorld’s animal care rescue work around the clock  to care for sick, injured, and orphaned animals in need of rehabilitation which can last from several weeks to several years depending on the individual cases while trainers like Abby Stone, Laura Surovik and many others thrive on welcoming visitors of all ages to experience animals up close and personal from the comforts of a zoological setting where the experience is a fun, safe, and educational experience even though the trainers know all the risks of working with various animals such as killer whales. And Finally, there are conservationists like Dyan DeNapoli and Diana Reiss who continue to study and understand the incredible world of animals for as much as we know about popular species like penguins and dolphins, there still so much we have yet to know and knowing more about them is one of the ways that would save them from dying out.

In the end, these people may not get a lot of press comparing to their famous counterparts, but they continue to inspire us all on every level to love and appreciate wildlife and most importantly, make a difference on every level. So why idolize Snooki or the Kardashians when there are people who truly make a difference everyday?

Big thanks to Lexi for helping me come up with this blog entry. Thanks again,



How to Save a Cold-Stunned Sea Turtle

Thanks to the rescue and rehabilitation efforts of the New England Aquarium, cold-stunned sea turtles like Rorschach (#10) (photo by the NEAQ sea turtle rescue team)

Each year, around 50 to 200 sea turtles will beach themselves on the shores of the Massachusetts coastline from late October through December as a result of cold stunning. For those who may not be familiar with this term, “cold stunning” is when a sea turtle is exposed to cold water temperatures that are less than 65 degrees followed by a sudden hypothermic reaction. The symptoms include decrease in heart rate, a decrease in circulation, lethargy, shock, dehydration, pneumonia, and even death.  But the question that many people have in mind is why do these turtles come to Massachusetts waters in the first place? Well, this is because every summer when the water temperature gets to be about 70 degrees, the sea turtles (many of which are Kemp’s Ridleys) will feed on crabs in Cape Cod Bay after swimming through the Gulf Stream Current. The waters of Cape Cod Bay serve as a rich and hospitable seasonal habitat for the migrating animals who could often be seen in bays, inlets, and sheltering harbors. However, by late-October, the turtles will begin to migrate south to the warm waters of Florida, and the Caribbean while those who get trapped in the arm of the Cape, especially those feeding in shallow and inlet waters, will eventually become victims of cold stunning and before being pulled by the wind to the beaches of Cape Cod.  Once these turtles strand on the beach thanks to the unforgiving winds, they are now at the mercy of the icy cold waves and tides. There, the clock begins to tick when it comes to matter of life and death.

This is where organizations like the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary of Wellfleet Bay and the New England Aquarium come in. During the cold stunning season, volunteers will patrol the beaches after high tide in search of sea turtles in need of rescuing from the icy cold waters. Once a turtle is found, sometimes, volunteers will gently touch it to check for a reaction to see if it’s either a live or dead and sometimes, it’s hard to determine that because some animals could be found, show no reaction, be presumed dead before finally showing a reaction. Turtle experts call this “Lazarus turtles” because of this coma-like reaction that some of the turtles present. Meanwhile, once the turtles are rescued, they are transported to Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary where they are held for a short period of time before being transported to the New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Facility in Quincy where they could receive treatment for up to two years depending on their condition on a long-term basis. Sometimes, some of these turtle patients will be transferred to other facilities like SeaWorld, or the National Aquarium in Baltimore  where they will continue their rehabilitation before being released in the spring and early summer months in the waters off Florida’s Atlantic coast.

After nearly six to eight months of rehabilitation, the remaining sea turtles (the ones who were never transported to other facilities) are released into either the Atlantic Coasts of Florida, Virginia, and southern Cape Cod where some of the animals are satellite tagged so that biologists can continue to keep track on the progress of the released animals in all hopes they do get themselves stuck in Cape Cod Bay again and return to their tropical habitats.

Kemp's Ridley sea turtles released off the coast of Florida in April 2011 (photo by NEAQ)

What can you do if you see a cold-stunned sea turtle:

1. Do not put it back in the water. Do not remove it from the beach.
Move it above the high tide line.
2. Cover it with seaweed and mark its location with a stick, buoy or other beach debris.
3. Call the Massachusetts Wellfleet Audubon Society at 508-349-2615 or the New England Aquarium’s rescue hotline at 617-973-5247and leave a message as to its location. Please be as specific as possible in giving directions from the nearest beach access so rescuers and volunteers can recover the turtle quickly.