Spiral Notebook
One Manatee, Two Manatee…
by Lily Kessinger
March 3, 2016
One Manatee, Two Manatee…

In Scientist in the Field book The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species, author Peter Lourie follows Dr. John Reynolds in his scientific studies and conservation efforts to help save and learn more about Florida manatees. At one point, Dr. Reynolds describes what it is like to count manatees from the air—yes you read that right! He flies in a plane 700 feet above water where “you can see them rise to breathe and interact with one another. You can see the moms and the calves beside them, many with boat scars on their back.”

But what is the purpose of this? Well, Dr. Reynolds takes a survey of how many manatees are living off the coast of Florida by visiting areas where manatees are likely to congregate in order to estimate their population numbers. Peter Lourie writes, “John is aware that these surveys don’t tell us all we need to know in order to establish the conservation status of this, or any, marine mammal, but they do help.”

And just this past week on February 25th, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that they counted 6,250 manatees this year, growing from last year’s count of 6,063. The news release states, “Both years had very good survey conditions and 2015 and 2016 are the only two years on record for which the count has exceeded 6,000 individuals.” And that, “Because some animals go undetected, these counts represent the minimum number of manatees known to be in the survey area on the day of the survey.” While there is still work to be done, it is heartening and encouraging to see how those who continue to dedicate their lives to conservation efforts make a difference.

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