Tag Archive | rescue

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.

Advertisements

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.

The Importance of Zoos and Aquariums (a 2010 article from the Orlando Sentinel)


SeaWorld is more than just a marine park......It does it part, like many other zoological facilities to help wildlife and educate the public about them.

In response to the recent lawsuit PETA (hate that group by the way!) has filed against SeaWorld over the keeping of killer whales in their care, I have decided to post a one-year-old article that Ocean Embassy vice President, Mark Simmons wrote for the Orlando Sentinel about the true inner workings of zoological facilities regarding their role in saving wildlife while educating others in the process. I have read it several times and it’s amazing to see how zoo professionals are doing their part to make a difference in our world today and you should read it and apperciate the great works that facilities like SeaWorld, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and others do on a daily basis. Enjoy and you are welcome for sharing this article:

“Look at good Works in Rating Captivity’s Ethics”

By Mark Simmons, Vice President  of Ocean Embassy on March 12th, 2010

The recent tragedy at SeaWorld, beyond the grieving of a community over a whale trainer’s death, has stimulated discussion about captivity.

Anti-captivity groups have called for the release of Tilikum and the end of SeaWorld. They have likened the most advanced zoological facility in the world with prison and named SeaWorld, and in effect all U.S.-permitted and fully accredited zoological institutions, as money- hungry profit-mongers.

However, monetary interest in captive animals is not exclusive to zoological parks. The groups calling for Tilikum’s release raise money on the same public display of animals. Their business model is well-refined: They raise more in donations with the least cost of marketing on captive dolphin and whale issues than any other single issue.

Is profit a dirty word when it comes to conservation? Studies on environmental movements have linked conservation to prosperity. They reveal that we concern ourselves with conservation only after our basic needs are met, i.e. when we are prosperous. As individuals, we intuitively know this to be true.

Zoological institutions are no different than individuals in regard to the relationship between conservation and prosperity. As a professional community, zoos and aquariums have funded more than 3,700 conservation projects in more than 100 countries and spend nearly $70 million each year on conservation initiatives, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This is possible not only because they possess the knowledge, but because they have the financial capacity.

In contrast, anti-captivity nonprofit organizations don’t spend enough on helping animals or their ecosystems. They do not pay taxes on the money they raise, and a large percentage of their proceeds go to salaries, advertising and lobbying activities.

Who is the more responsible corporate citizen?

In 1998, Ocean Futures Society, the Humane Society of the United States and Earth Island Institute attempted to release Keiko (of Free Willy notoriety) to the wild. During this release campaign, they raised more than $20 million in tax-free donations and produced several documentary films.

As concluded in a scientific report issued by U.S. and Greenland authorities, the Keiko release project was a failure. After only a few weeks on his own, he sought out human contact and exhibited nuisance behavior following boats and looking for handouts. Keiko died of pneumonia in 2003. The experiment was perhaps the most compelling case of animal exploitation in history.

The argument against captivity seeks to isolate zoos and aquariums from all other forms of animal use in society. The importance of animals in our society and the plight of quality zoological facilities cannot be so easily reduced to catch phrases like “prison” or “life in a bathtub.” Trainers are not wardens, and the animals are provided the best care in mental, physical, social and environmental stimulation. They are given the highest quality of nutrition and medical care and a clean, hazard-free environment.

Conversely, animals in the wild face ever-increasing threats from toxins, depleted food supply and a degrading habitat. They are forced to travel farther and farther to find sustenance.

At least 19 species have been saved from absolute extinction by zoological institutions, including black-footed ferrets and California condors. In many tangible ways, SeaWorld and other leading zoological parks are modern-day arks.

It has been said that awareness and the emotional motivation to act are the greatest conservation challenges of our time. About 175 million people visit zoos and aquariums in the United States every year. When the day comes that the oceans are clean, food sources are abundant and society can act as one in the preservation of wildlife and their ecosystems, then maybe we will not need the constant reminder or the sanctuary that zoos provide.

Until then, there are few organizations — for profit or not — that reach as many people and animals as this important social institution.

Link to Original Article: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-03-12/news/os-ed-mark-simmons-captivity-ethics-0312120100311_1_captivity-zoos-and-aquariums-keiko

Animals in human care, whether if it's a killer whale, a lion, or lemur, are ambassadors to their wild counterparts.

What does it Take to Rescue and Rehabilitate Wildlife in Trouble


A rescue team member at the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA treats a cold-stunned Kemp's Ridley (photo by NEAQ)

 

Every year, a number of sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals strand for various reasons. This is because when an animal strands, it’s because they are either out of their elements, or, outside of their survival envelope. However, identifying an animal as “stranded” is very difficult because, many times, animals will mask their symptoms to avoid predation; but the main signs that would tell you that an animal is stranded would include the following: illness, orphaned by an un-returning mother after 24 hours, injury, or suffering from any condition that may prevent movement or feeding on their own.  If you come across a sick, orphaned, or injured marine animal, please keep an eye on it for a long period of time. Then, call your local zoological park that does wildlife rehabilitations, or or nearest wildlife rehabilitation center that does rescue and rehabilitations of marine wildlife (be sure you give the exact situation and location of the animal too).

The only other thing you could from there after that is allow the wildlife professionals do their thing. Once an animal arrives at a rescue and rehabilitation facility, the process begins. During rehabilitation, an animal must have very little to no human contact to prevent it from imprinting on human care takers. One part of rehabilitation is long term treatment by veterinarians. This treatment can include surgery, bottle-feeding orphaned animals, and giving sick animals anti-biotics to prevent infection. Rehabilitation can usually take months, or sometimes, even years. Some facilities even provide animals undergoing rehabilitation live fish in order to teach them how to hunt, while some marine animals, like sea turtles undergo physical rehabilitation in medical pools in order to help rebuild strength loss from oil spills and cold-stunning seasons.

Once rehabilitation has been completed, and they are releasable, a decision must be made regarding where the animal should be released since most marine animals are migratory. There, researchers will search for a location that is best suited for releasing an animal.  For example, when releasing newly rehabilitated seals and sea lions, it’s best to release them in areas where haul-outs are common, and are away from human contact. But, if an animal has a condition or has been in a situation where they have a very little chance of surviving on their own, then researchers can then have the power to declare them as non-releasable. A non-releasable animal is then transferred to a zoological park that houses animals of the same species as the one that is rescued. They will then, live out their lives in human care.

If you would like to learn more how to get involve with wildlife rehabilitation, please visit  http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/what-we-do/rehabilitation-release/what-we-do-rehabilitation-1.html

http://www.seewinter.com/ for more information.

First Post: A Little Talk About Clearwater Marine Aquarium


Education has always been one of CMA's missons

Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a marine life hospital, and non-profit organization with a motto says “rescue, rehab, release”. The facility’s root go back to 1953 when a marine life museum called “Sea-O-Rama”, which was located on Clearwater Beach, displayed fish that were native to Florida waters. About ten years later, an interest in having an aquarium that displayed live animals began to take it’s shape. In 1972, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened to the public for the first time as a marine science center after the city of Clearwater donated a former water treatment plant to the facility. But, it was not until the mid 1908’s that it started to house resident rescued dolphins.  in 1984, Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s first resident dolphin Sunset Sam, became the first surviving stranded dolphin in Florida after he was rescued by it’s rescued team. He was known for his ability to paint and work with disabled children. He died in December 2001.

Today, it is now identified to as a marine animal hospital that rescues, rehabilitates, and release cetaceans, otters, and sea turtles in need. If the animals are not releasable, then sometimes they are given a permanent home at Clearwater Marine Aquarium where they serve as the aquarium’s ambassadors. They also do a lot of work on sea turtle conservation such as monitoring turtle nests in beaches of Pinellas County, FL as well as rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing sick and injured sea turtles. In 2009, CMA reported over 138 nests all over beaches in Pinellas County. Recently, they have been religiously involved in the January 2010 strandings of a number of cold-stunned turtles who have fallen victim to the unseasonable cold temperatures in Florida. Jojo, was the first of those cold-stunned turtles to be successfully released on February 2, 2010. In the summer of 2010, CMA took in six sea turtles that were inflicted by the BP’s April 20th Deep Water Horizon Gulf Coast Oil Spill Disaster. After the turtles received a second rehabilitation and check up exam, they were soon released in waters off Southwest Florida. They were not alone during this project; they also assisted by rescue staff from aquariums from all over Florida.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium also has six different interaction programs that allow guests to meet their dolphin collection up-close. They include the Dolphin Encounter, Dolphin Trainer Experience, Trainer for a Week, Paint with Winter, Wade with Dolphins. The prices range from the $50 Paint with Winter to the $950 Trainer for a Week Program. The Dolphin Trainer Experience also allows guests to take part in a training session with the river otters too and learn about what it takes to care for these playful animals. These programs are just some ways that allow the public to connect with marine animals in a whole new way.