Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sanibel Manatee Easy to say some

At our little farewell wine and cheese with our French neighbors here in Naples, we were entertained with a variety of stories.

The funniest one was of the French family's recent trip to Sanibel Island. Like us, they love Sanibel, and, like us, do find some distinct differences between the main land and the Island.

Apparently, the mom and dad are accustomed to getting up early and going to the beach while the two daughters sleep in. And this one morning, they jumped into the Gulf for a refreshing swim, but it did not last long. No sooner were they in the water than the dad felt a heavy hit to his torso. He yelled, mom began a desperate swim away and both were amazed as a huge, bewhiskered face lifted from the water and sprouted water from its huge mouth. They, and all those watching from shore alerted by the father's yell, just thought this was hilarious.

To be honest, I would have been frightened to death were it me. And to be perfectly honest, we have never seen a Manatee on Sanibel Island. Dolphins yes, birds of all kinds, yes, alligators, yes, even a couple of glimpses of bobcats, but not yet a Manatee. Yet our French friends claimed that they saw Manatees every day during their stay on Sanibel.

I have to believe them. A Manatee is a pretty hard thing to miss. Manatees have a mean mass of 400 to 550 kilograms (880 to 1,200 lb), and mean length of 2.8 to 3 metres (9.2 to 9.8 ft), with maximums of 3.6 metres (12 ft) and 1,775 kilograms (3,910 lb) seen (the females tend to be larger and heavier). When born, baby manatees have an average mass of 30 kilograms (66 lb).

In addition to their pure bulk, they have a face one would not forget. They have a large flexible prehensile upper lip that acts in many ways like a shortened trunk, somewhat similar to an elephant's. They use the lip to gather food and eat, as well as using it for social interactions and communications.

And, they are "up in the air" a great deal of the time, again making them an easy target. Half a manatee's day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest of the time grazing in shallow waters at depths of 1–2 metres (3.3–6.6 ft). The Florida subspecies (T. m. latirostris) has been known to live up to 60 years.

Though sometimes attacked by sharks and alligators, their main threat is man. Hurricanes, cold stress, red tide poisoning and a variety of other maladies threaten manatees, but by far their greatest danger is from watercraft strikes, which account for about a quarter of Florida manatee deaths.

They are mutilated by propellers on a regular basis, and the descriptions posted are pretty horrifying.

As on land, operators of moving vehicles are told to "slow down"....a good piece of advice for their own well being as well as those of the creatures threatened by life in the fast lane!

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