Today’s Solutions: January 19, 2022

In Florida, near Cape Canaveral, wildlife conservationists are getting desperate to save the wild manatee population, which has been dying at alarming rates. More than 1,000 manatees have perished in 2021. The primary cause of death is pollution, which has brought the seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon down by 58 percent in the past 11 years, ultimately leading to starvation. The deaths have more than doubled compared to last year’s numbers, which sat at 498.

After a long and grueling debate, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved an official pilot program to help feed the manatees, something that has never been done before because feeding wildlife is an illegal activity.

The limited feeding trial will be launched by the Florida Power & Light plant in Cape Canaveral, as the manatees tend to hang out there in the nearby Indian River Lagoon during cooler winter months, taking advantage of the warm water discharged from the plant.

The manatees will be fed a variety of greens, including cabbage and lettuce, through a controlled feeding method (like a conveyor belt), so that human interactions are limited. This project is not a go-ahead for other residents to start feeding the manatees with their leftovers, though, as this kind of feeding remains illegal.

“It’s the entire ecosystem that is affected by this and will be affected for a decade to come,” explains Patrick Rose, executive director of Save The Manatee Club. “This is a necessary stopgap measure. It is a problem created by man and man is going to have to solve it.”

Manatees were downgraded from their endangered status in 2017, but many officials, environmentalists, and conservationists are rallying for these creatures to be re-listed as endangered, affording them more protections.

“Literally, saving manatees is part of saving the ecosystem. If we can get this taken care of, manatees will flourish. If we don’t, they won’t,” Rose implores.

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