3 min read

Tourists Harass Manatees Until They Have Epic Freakout

Between snapping selfies with the pope and Instagramming our food, humans have little shame about photographing whatever we want.

Unfortunately, as tourists in Costa Rica who flocked to see the sea turtles' nesting showed us, this desire often comes in conflict with the natural behavior of animals.

National Geographic photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier were recently on assignment at the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida, where manatees can find shallow waters to warm their bodies.

Although Nicklen and Mittermeier kept their distance from the manatees, many tour groups didn't. They captured a stunning time-lapse video that shows the negative effects of human encroachment on animal territory.

Nicklen's caption tells the story shown by the footage:

US Fish and Wildlife and most tour operators have a strict code of ethic to respect the Manatees and maintain a safe distance while the manatees attempt to stay warm. The perimeter floats are put in place to keep people out but the Manatees go to where the warm water is and not necessarily within the confines of the rope barrier. They are literally trying to stay alive and it is imperative not to disturb them. However, it is hard to keep an eye on everyone and many disregard the rules. You can see people swimming amongst them, grabbing them and even pushing off of them. Then, more boats arrive and eventually there is a large bang from one of the boats and all of the manatees disperse back out into the cold water.

Nicklen noted that although these interactions are unfortunate for the manatees, he is inspired to shed light upon the negative effects of human interference and hopes to "drive the conservation debate" forward.

For more incredible video and photography, follow Nicklen and Mittermeier on Instagram.