5 Reasons Why We Absolutely Need To Save Florida's Manatees

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A libertarian organization in Florida is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have manatees' status on the endangered species list downgraded to "threatened," arguing that manatee populations are doing fine in Florida. Manatee numbers have been up in recent years, but conservationists warn that the population boost could be misleading: a record number of sea cows died last year, and the animals have been on the endangered species list since it first came out in 1967. Given the seemingly never-ending threats to Florida manatees, including pollution, habitat degradation and ship collisions, it's difficult to see the reasoning behind the lawsuit.

1) They'll do anything for their young.

Known for being gentle and generally laid-back creatures, manatees are also incredibly helpful caretakers who are considerate of their young. Manatee calves are born underwater without the ability to swim on their own, so they're unable to get themselves to the surface for air just after birth. But manatee mothers, ever maternal, guide their babies or carry them upward until they can swim on their own.

2) They're too busy eating and swimming to harm other living things.

It's almost as if manatees are on a perpetual vacation, lazing and grazing all day. Because the massive creatures consume up to 110 pounds of food daily, they have to spend most of their time munching on different water grasses and algae, which make up most of their diet. Manatees are primarily herbivorous, and are known for being one of the only surviving marine mammals not to eat other animals.

3) They don't just swim to get places -- they also swim to play.

Manatees have been known to body surf or "barrel roll" -- a fun maneuver where the animals spin round and round in a 360-degree motion -- just for kicks. The animals certainly swim as their primary form of locomotion, as they live exclusively in the water -- but they also enjoy playing around in the waves, because everyone needs to have a little fun.

4) They really pay attention, turning their bodies to face whatever they're looking at.

Because they only have six vertebrae (most other mammals have seven), manatees cannot turn their necks sideways to look at something that catches their attention. That means the animals must turn their entire bodies when they want to focus, which lets you know they're really involved in whatever is going on.

5) They're an essential part of their ecosystems.

Manatees, like any other animal, are merely one part of a much larger system -- remove one element, and the whole thing inevitably falls apart. The large animals keep local vegetation from becoming obstructive by eating such huge quantities of plant-life, and (to be a little lewd) then fertilize their surrounding environments by excreting all of that digested flora. They don't harm other animals, but unfortunately they suffer plenty from human behavior. Manatees are playful, gentle and devoted -- and we should remain devoted to them.