Wild Animals/manatees

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Question
If its not a good idea to swim with or touch the manatees in the wild, then how to all the parks get away with it? They advertise that you can swim with and touch them. If its going to put them in danger I won't do it. I wouldn't want to take the chance. But one website I goes to will say you can and another web site says its not a good idea. Which is it? I live in Florida. I have contacted FWC and they say they will get back to me "SHORTLY" Which is code for 'sometime between now and never.

Answer
Dear Joyce

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (http://myfwc.com/education/wildlife/manatee/viewing-guidelines/) say that the manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. The manatee 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."
Harassment is defined as any activity which alters the animal's natural behaviour, which can create dangerous conditions for the animal. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, they can alter their behaviour and may lose their natural fear of boats and humans, so they are more likely to be harmed. Many manatees have been injured by the propellers of boats.  

There is some conflicting information. Crystal River Manatee Tours (http://www.plantationoncrystalriver.com/manatee-tours.htm) say that people can gently touch and stroke manatees with just one hand, if the manatees approach them. This conflicts with information from other websites that state that people are not allowed to touch manatees at all. While I can't state what effect touching has on a manatee, I agree with the FWC that it is better for manatees to fear humans or boats, rather than running the risk of being harmed by people, even if this is unintentional.

I'm sorry to hear that FWC didn't respond quickly. http://myfwc.com/contact/ gives a number of ways to contact them. A phone call may be best.

Good luck

Jonathan  

Wild Animals

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Jonathan Wright

Expertise

I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.

Experience

I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

Organizations
WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Publications
Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

Education/Credentials
BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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