MANATEE MIGRATION – Modern Benefits, Modern Dangers
“Save the Manatee” has become a familiar conservationist’s cry around the country. This time of year, manatees are wintering in the warm waters around southern Florida. In recent years, this endangered species’s migration pattern has been unwittingly changed by humans. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
We’re listening to the sound of tropical manatees. These large, peaceful marine mammals can’t survive in cold water, so every winter many of them migrate to the warm shores of south Florida.
In the 1960s, a series of hydrothermal power plants opened up along the Florida coastline. These power stations pour streams of warm water into the ocean, and are situated right in the middle of the manatee’s summer territory. Some years ago, as the manatees were preparing to head south, they stumbled on to these power plants, and spent the winter wallowing in the warm water. As generations went by, they passed this information on to their offspring, and now nearly all the Florida manatees migrate to the power stations every year.
While these power plants give the manatees a leg up by expanding their territory, they may also be endangering their lives. As it is, south Florida is on the very upper fringe of the manatee’s range, and the power stations are even further north, in cooler water. The manatees are dependent on the warmth from the plants, but if they journey out to sea to feed and a cold front comes through, well then they’re left unprotected.
The fact is that the manatees have come to rely on the power plants in the winter. Inevitably, some of these plants will shut down one day, leaving the manatees to search for a habitat that no longer exists.
I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.