What is a Manatee?

MANATEES were plunged into the news this week after one of the creatures was found to have the word "Trump" scraped into its back in Florida.

Shocking video of the massive mammal with the president's name etched onto it prompted an investigation from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The animal was spotted in the Blue Hole headwaters of the Homosassa River, about 80 miles from Orlando, and the Fish and Wildlife Service asked anyone with information about the political message to contact them.

What is a Manatee?

A manatee is a large, slow-moving animal, often referred to as a 'sea cow'.

It lives underwater and can grow up to 13ft and weigh up to 1,300lbs.

There are three different species of manatee. The West Indian manatee ranges along the North American east coast from Florida to Brazil.

The Amazonian manatee lives in the Amazon River and the African manatee swims along the west coast and rivers of Africa.

Despite their massive bulk, they are graceful swimmers, powering themselves with their strong tails and typically gliding along at 5 miles an hour.

They never leave the water but, like all marine mammals, they must breathe air at the surface. 

Can a manatee kill you?

Manatees are herbivores so they will not want to eat a human being.

They are also calm and peaceful and pose no danger to swimmers.

In fact, they are curious animals that enjoy human interaction.

Why is it illegal to ride a manatee?

The manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which makes it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal.

It is also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which states: "It is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee." 

What is the lifespan of a manatee?

The average lifespan of a manatee is 40 years, although they can live up to 60.

But the gentle beasts are under threat, often accidentally hit by motorboats in crowded waters and sometimes becoming entangled in fishing nets.

A manatee's languid nature also makes it vulnerable to hunters after their hides, oil, and bones. 

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