Wildlife officials in Florida will start feeding starving manatees to reduce their mortality rate. Officials have announced a hand-feeding program that will help rescue the sea mammals from starvation. Manatees rely on seagrass for food and usually return to warm water in winter to feed.

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This year, the gentle sea mammals are faced with a different scenario. In place of regular seagrass, the water is covered with algal blooms. The blooms have destroyed seagrass beds, leaving the mammals without the crucial feed. Consequently, the animals have been dying at alarming rates. The situation is more pronounced on Florida’s Atlantic coast, prompting wildlife officials to take action.

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Shannon Estenoz, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks with the Department of Interior, said in a press release that the officials are considering all possible short-term measures, including hand-feeding the animals. “Our agencies and Unified Command partners carefully considered all aspects of a short-term feeding trial,” said Estenoz. “It is critical we help manatees in the short term with actions that are compatible with their long-term wellbeing and resilience.”

According to officials, the animals appear emaciated with protruding ribs. Further, the death rate is so high that rescuers are unable to deal with the dead animals. The corpses have overwhelmed locals and even become a problem to the natural ecosystem. To deal with the situation, officials are forced to tow hundreds of carcasses to remote islands.

To salvage the situation and prevent further deaths, officials say that the only way out is to provide feed for the animals. While speaking to a local TV station, Paul Fafeita, president of the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County, said, “They are starving, and I see it in person. I’m out there all the time. I’m witnessing it. It’s heart-wrenching.”

The Florida government, alongside the federal government and wildlife officials, is now working on a feeding program. The program will include hand-feeding the animals with romaine lettuce and other vegetation. The program will also include setting up a temporary field response station along the Indian River Lagoon, where most of the manatee deaths have occurred. To facilitate the program, the Florida state legislature increased the annual fund for manatee rescue.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Pixabay