Visitors to Manatee Park got a special treat on Monday, watching the gentle giants move into the warmer waters in Southwest Florida.
When the Gulf of Mexico drops below 68 degrees, Manatees instinctively seek warmth by going to waters near power plants like the one outside of Manatee Park.
Some visitors to Southwest Florida and the park, like Crystal and Andrew Eastwood from Canada, don’t get to see the beautiful animals very often.
“Oh, no, no, no. This is a Florida special for sure,” Crystal and Andrew said.
A manatee at Manatee Park in Fort Myers. CREDIT: WINK News
Very special, but becoming increasingly rarer with each passing year for Floridians also. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates there are only 7,500 manatees left in Florida’s waters.
“It’s really important that we preserve, you know, the future of this breed and this animal for our future generations like our kids to enjoy,” Fort Myers residents Canaan and Kevin Sckula said.
Collisions with boats, habitat loss, starvation, and exposure to harmful algal blooms are all big threats facing manatees. FWC reported 800 manatee deaths in 2022. While lower than the 1,100 reported in 2021, it’s still higher than the 5-year average of 741 deaths per year.
“Pretty special animals and we have to do the right thing to make sure they survive,” Canaan and Kevin said.
And hopefully, there’s some strength in numbers since about 150 of the gentle giants enjoyed the warmer waters at Manatee Park.
Tuesday, one manatee rescued from Manatee Park will be returned after a year of rehabilitation at the Tampa Zoo and Sea World.