Manatees And Captive Breeding

When manatees are born in the wild, calves remain dependent on their mothers for up to two years while the mother teaches the calf necessary survival skills such as migration routes, feeding spots, and warm water locations. Manatees born in captivity are at a great disadvantage in learning these survival skills. (Photo © David Schrichte)

Q. Why is it not feasible to breed manatees in captivity to increase the population?
--Cora Berchem, New Jersey

A. There are several reasons why breeding manatees in captivity does not occur in Florida. First and foremost is that manatees naturally breed very well in the wild. Secondly, captive-born manatees must overcome a steep learning curve in acclimating to life in the wild. When manatees are born in the wild, calves remain dependent on their mothers for up to two years while the mother teaches the calf necessary survival skills, such as migration routes, feeding spots, and warm water locations. Manatees born in captivity are at a great disadvantage in learning these survival skills. In addition, the space at rehabilitation facilities, where such breeding would take place, is limited and is needed to treat injured manatees. Finally, breeding manatees in captivity is also very expensive, would not improve species recovery, and would likely take valuable resources away from efforts to protect manatees in their natural environment.

--Courtney Edwards
Staff Biologist, Save the Manatee Club



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