Manatee Munchies

Science

BY BRITTANY MATTIE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY FEB 6, 2019

Curious how much your favorite Florida mascot eats a day? These floating herbivores consume 7-10% of their body weight daily—sometimes more—depending on their size, says Martha Wells, Chief Community Engagement Officer for South Florida Museum. “That’s a lot of food.” she adds. For a diet comprised of 60-100 types of water plants and grasses found in the wild, The Museum has gained permits to collect invasive freshwater plants, like hyacinth (seen in the photo above, and a manatee favorite) collected locally in Palmetto.

With four manatee hospitals in the state of Florida, South Florida Museum remains a Stage 2 Manatee Rehabilitation Facility, where manatees can come after being treated from critical conditions, be stabilized and begin to grow strong and healthy again. Wells shares that the 2-3 manatees they have in stabilization at the moment are doing quite well—eating a multitude of plants that help them stay accustomed to wild foods, or develop a familiarity with something they would normally eat in open waters. Many don’t realize that manatees have to be fed restaurant-quality food when in rehab. All vegetation gets inspected and washed before fed to the sea cows. And to help them eventually get back to their natural habitat, "we make sure to find a combination of produce to get them the vitamins and nutrients they need, which helps us bring them one step closer to the wild,” explains Wells.

Excitingly enough, one of the manatees is set to be released back into the wild on the east coast in a few weeks, Wells shares, while also noting that the manatees are always released in the same spot, or close to where they were found/rescued. If you see a sick or injured manatee, call South Florida Musuem’s Manatee Rehabilitation Center.

In this picture, Aquarium Director Virginia Edmonds (right) and Manatee Care Specialist Amanda Deardeuff (left) are collecting hyacinth to feed the manatees currently in care: ONeil and Baca. The Museum thanks supporter Alice Newlon for the invitation to collect resources on her property.

Photo courtesy of South Florida Museum, 201 10th St W, Bradenton, 941-746-4131.

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