Manatees continue to suffer from the catastrophic effects of red tide in southwest Florida and also on the east coast in Brevard County where a large number of manatees have died, possibly from a different toxin.
Red tide acts as a neurotoxin in manatees, giving them seizures that can result in drowning without human intervention. Manatees may exhibit muscle twitches, lack of coordination, labored breathing, and an inability to maintain body orientation. If rescued in time, most manatees can recover, so report a sick manatee immediately to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Hotline at 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on your cellular phone, or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio.
“It’s crucial that manatees exposed to red tide are moved out of the affected area by trained biologists and stabilized at a critical care facility, where prognosis is very good,” says Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation for Save the Manatee Club. “Extraordinary efforts from individuals calling for help have already saved manatee lives.” In one particular instance a manatee that was reported as dead turned out to be barely alive, and through the valiant efforts of a dedicated rescue volunteer the manatee is now fully recovered.
Callers who report a sighting should be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is the exact location of the animal?
- Is the manatee alive or dead? Look closely as the manatee may appear dead but still be alive!
- How long have you been observing the manatee?
- What is the approximate size of the manatee?
- Can you provide a contact number where you can be reached for further information?
After calling the FWC hotline, citizens will be connected to FWC biologists or law enforcement officers who will advise what to do to assist the manatee until trained help arrives. Closely follow their expert instruction and be prepared to stay on scene to assist the manatee to help ensure a positive outcome.
To learn more about red tide, visit Save the Manatee Club’s website at www.savethemanatee.org. Also, visit the FWC website at http://research.myfwc.com/features/category_sub.asp?id=4434, for current red tide status across the state.
Get tips from citizens who have assisted in the rescue of a red-tide-affected manatee on the Club’s website at www.savethemanatee.org/news_pr_red_tide_4-13_2.html.
About Save the Manatee Club
Save the Manatee Club was established in 1981 by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett and former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor, Bob Graham, to protect endangered manatees and their aquatic habitat for future generations. Today, it is the world’s leading manatee conservation organization. The Club is a membership-based, national nonprofit organization that promotes public awareness and education; sponsors local and international scientific research and rescue, rehabilitation, and release efforts; and advocates for the conservation of manatees and their essential habitat based on the best available scientific data. To find out more about manatees or the Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee® program, go to www.savethemanatee.org.