At what point should an animal be removed from the endangered list? In my own home state of Florida, black bears listed as threatened were rewarded for a rebound in population numbers with a one-week hunt. The issue of 3200 hunting permits for the taking of 300 bears in a one week hunt of the estimated 2,640 statewide was overkill, pardon my pun. The hunt quota was filled in only two days. With those odds, is it any wonder? It’s hard to argue with the logic of our state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Thomas Eason, the commission’s director of habitat and species conservation recently said, “We’re having more bears born and surviving than are dying.” Wow. Perfectly reasonable criteria for granting hunting permits. The commission is considering another hunt in 2016.
Lovers of large mammals will be aggrieved to learn the gentle manatee is the conservators’ next target. The “sea cow” is now being considered for removal from the Endangered Species List.
With encouragement from the federal government, which recently proposed dropping the sea mammal from the list, the commission is now zeroing in on the manatee, not with a hunt, but by removing its protection. If you do any boating in South Florida or the Caribbean, you will be hard pressed to find a manatee without numerous gashes in its flesh from propellers of speeding boats.
According to Savethemanatee.org, there were 6,250 Florida manatees documented in the February, 2016 aerial survey. In 2015 there were 405 deaths in the state of Florida waters, some from red tides, most from boat encounters. Tell me this gentle, slow-moving sirenian is not in danger. Better yet, tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At least they’re asking for input from the public. Go to www.regulations.gov and post a comment. Unfortunately, I learned yesterday the deadline for comments is 11:59 P. M., April 7. Please act fast. Manatees can’t.
After years on the endangered species list, there is good news for manatees. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the sea mammal’s population has recovered enough to be reclassified as a “threatened” species. But is this really “good news?” The Pacific Legal Foundation, representing a group of recreational boaters, tour operators, dive shops and hotels in Crystal River on the Florida Gulf Coast, began petitions for the reclassification eight years ago. Two lawsuits and much lobbying later, they have achieved their goal.
Just what is the difference between “endangered” and “threatened?” The former means the species is in imminent risk of extinction; the latter means they could become endangered in the foreseeable future. Boating, waterfront development, and red tides are still a threat. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, recorded 830 manatee deaths in 2013. Deaths declined in 2014 to 371 and 405 between Jan 1 and Dec. 31, 2015.
According to the Save the Manatee Club’s most recent aerial survey in February, 2015, at least 6,063 mammals live in Florida. Considering that number and the number of deaths yearly, it strikes me they are still in imminent risk of extinction. Do you agree?
You can order a manatee specialty plate at myfloridaspecialtyplate.com/order-now.html for $25. Revenue is deposited in the Save the Manatee Trust Fund created within the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
fish and wildlife commission myfwc.com/manatee
Seen any mammoths lately? Like modern elephants, they were contemporaries of Homo sapiens, and therein lies the problem. Threats to the largest land mammal on earth include the loss and degradation of habitat, and poaching for ivory. In 1989 international trade in ivory was banned, but underground markets still thrive in some countries, with a growing demand from Asians, particularly Chinese, who consider car ownership and ivory decorations the ultimate signs of affluence.
Surprisingly, the greatest threat to the beasts is conflict with human farmers. Voracious elephant appetites conflict with humans trying to feed their own families. The World Wildlife Federation is attempting to eliminate conflict between people and elephants, mobilizing and educating communities. Protecting crops requires proper land use, allowing for seasonal movement of herds. WWF is attempting to educate populations in proper land management and techniques for protecting crops. Additionally, they are instilling an appreciation for wildlife tourism as an economic resource. Efforts include training park guards, monitoring elephant movement and developing techniques to protect crops.
You and I can participate in the effort to preserve these magnificent creatures through World Wildlife Federation’s Adopt an Elephant Program. Eighty-four percent of the program’s spending goes directly to conservation efforts. Charity Navigator gives a high rating to the 501C3 charity. Gift options range from $25 to $250. An adoption certificate is included with each gift package. Next time you’re shopping for a birthday present, why not adopt an elephant?
A second, fun way to help elephants is through The Nature Conservancy’s #elegram Project. Doodle, draw, sculpt, paint, or sew an elephant and post it on social media, matching your #elegram with a donation. Learn more about the plight of elephants at The Nature Conservancy . CLick for written elegram instructions
Now sit back and celebrate World Elephant Day, August 12, 2015, by watching a 30-minute documentary, Return to the Forest , and take pride in knowing you’ve helped conserve an amazing species.
Picture Credit: EarthKids.com/ek-elephants.aspx