It’s Manatee Awareness Month. Let’s Celebrate.

Florida takes a lot of criticism, but it’s done one thing right.

In 2005, the Sunshine State declared November “Manatee Awareness Month” to promote the protection of Florida’s official marine mammal. We couldn’t approve more.

An endangered, male West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, being cared for at a rehabilitation compound in Laguna Guerrero, Chetumal Mexico.

Manatees make up three out of the four species in the order Sirenia. The name is related to the sirens of Greek mythology — half-bird, half-human women who were said to lure sailors to their deaths on craggy rocks.

manatee: trichechus manatus  surfacing  crystal river, usa
But a real manatee would never do that! These gentle giants mostly just want to be left alone.

Manatee
Unfortunately, humans haven’t quite gotten the memo. Florida manatees — which are endangered — are threatened by collisions with boat hulls and propellers, as well has habitat loss.

Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), Crystal River, west-central Florida, U.S.A.
Even well-meaning humans can harm manatees when they feed, interact with, or even try to ride the wild animals. Those kinds of activities can disturb the creatures’ natural routines and put them in harm’s way.

Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), Crystal River, west-central Florida, U.S.A.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why we have Manatee Awareness Month.

Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) rolling over showing underneath, Crystal river, Florida, USA
So what’s a manatee-lover to do? If you’re a resident of Florida — or just visiting — follow Defenders of Wildlife’s tips on how to respect manatee habitat.

Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus)
You can even symbolically adopt a manatee (or two) through the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club. The group is also rolling out a series of manatee education programs for Florida schools. One of those courses is available for free to the general public.

Manatee, Trichechus manatus, just outside of buoys marking sanctuary, Crystal River, Florida, USA
Because really, how great are manatees?

Manatee at Crystal River in Florida
Sometimes they grow algae, but it’s chill.

Manatees
Some will accuse these “sea cows” of being unintelligent, but recent research suggests the sweet creatures are much smarter than people give them credit for.

Florida Manatee
Did you know some evidence suggests that Christopher Columbus mistook a manatee for a mermaid?

Florida Manatee
He wrote it was “not as beautiful” as he’d expected.

Manatees (Trichechus manatus) Crystal River, Florida, USA
Don’t listen to him, manatees.

(Source: huffingtonpost.com)

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