Why Can't We Put Manatees In One Location To Keep Them Safe?
Manatees gather at Three Sisters Springs during the record cold event of 2010.
Manatees are very sensitive to temperature changes and can only survive in waters above 68 F. Above, manatees gather at Three Sisters Springs, a warm water refuge, during a record cold event in the winter of 2010. (Photo © David R. Schrichte)

Q. Why can't we just round up the manatees and put them in a lake somewhere so they would be safe?

A. Over the years, a number of people have asked this question because they were very concerned that manatees have been struck and injured by boats. There are several reasons as to why manatees cannot simply be rounded up and put in one safe location. First, manatees naturally roam over large areas of water in order to find food, suitable habitat, and, of course, other manatees. If the manatees were confined to one location — provided one was found large enough to hold all the manatees — they would not be able to continue these essential activities and maintain a balance with their natural habitat. Confining manatees to one location also has the potential of increasing disease and other abnormalities. Second, it is highly unlikely that any one location would be suitable in terms of supplying the manatees' diverse requirements. Manatees are very sensitive to temperature changes and can only survive in waters above 68 F. Therefore, any location they were taken to would not only have to be large enough, it would also have to be consistently above 68 F. It is also unlikely that any one location would have enough food to support the entire population as manatees can eat up to 10% of their body weight in vegetation daily. Also, manatees in the wild can graze over large areas, thereby not overgrazing any one area. Third, manatees serve an important role in their aquatic ecosystem. Removing them from their natural environment would also likely disrupt the balance of the ecosystem, which could lead to adverse consequences to other organisms. Lastly, finding and safely capturing and transporting all of the manatees would be virtually impossible both financially and logistically. Such an effort, while it may seem to be helpful by keeping manatees away from boats, would certainly lead to doing more harm than good to our endangered manatees.

--Courtney Edwards
Staff Biologist, Save the Manatee Club

Get more Manatee FAQ