We celebrate Manatee Appreciation Day every last Wednesday of March, on March 31 this year, to raise awareness for the endangered sea cows who are quickly falling victim to pollution, global warming, and hunting. Did you know manatees weigh as much as 1,200 pounds but survive on seagrass alone? And that they have no natural enemy except humans? This day is celebrated to appreciate, learn more about, and protect the bloated bean-bag look-alikes from deadly human activities.
History of Manatee Appreciation Day
The harmless gentle giants of the sea are closely related to elephants with their egg-shaped heads and flat tail. They are 10 to 13 feet in length, weigh almost 1,300 pounds and, despite looking bulky, can move or swim very quickly if necessary. You can find them in slow rivers, saltwater bays, estuaries, canals, and other coastal areas, spending their lives either sleeping, eating, or traveling. They don’t have a care in the world and only need to surface occasionally to replenish their oxygen.
It’s quite unfortunate that manatees have become endangered in recent years, mainly due to their loss of habitat. Comprising only three distinct species worldwide — West African, Amazonian, and West Indian — the aquatic animals regularly fall victim to poaching for their meat, the destruction of waterways, and careless collision with ships.
New developments cause their natural nesting areas to be destroyed; contaminate the water with toxic sewage, manure, and fertilizers; and cause algal blooms. Manatees often fatally collide with boats and ships in the shallow waters where they need to live to feed on the seagrass, their only food resource.
Manatee Appreciation Day was birthed by the world’s leading manatee conservation organization Save the Manatee Club, founded in 1981 by songwriter Jimmy Buffet and former U.S. senator Bob Graham. The organization works to protect the manatee and its habitat. It founded this holiday to back its mission of rescuing the slow-moving sea cows from thoughtless deadly human activities.
Manatee Appreciation Day timeline
On July 21, 1948, ‘Snooty’ is born at Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company and dies 69 years later, two days after his birthday.
The Florida manatee is enlisted under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 for the first time.
Cincinnati Zoo’s manatee facility releases more than a dozen manatee.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgrades the West African manatee’s status from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened.’
Manatee Appreciation Day FAQs
What is the lifespan of the manatee?
On average, the animal can live as long as 60 years and often more.
Are manatees friendly to humans?
Of course! They are harmless, peaceful animals who pose no danger and are happy to be around humans.
Can we play with manatees?
As per Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is illegal to harass, disturb, play with, or even hug a manatee as the animal has been enlisted vulnerable.
How To Celebrate/Observe Manatee Appreciation Day
Visit the manatee in Orlando
If you’re living in Orlando, go out and visit the Florida manatee at SeaWorld or Blue Spring State Park. Consider recording a video of the sea cows as they come out to make a memory.
Spread the word
Support the cause of the holiday by updating news about their endangered status, the causes of this, and simple fun facts with the hashtags #SaveTheManatee or #ManateeAppreciationDay.
Donate to manatee conservation programs
While you can only appreciate the animal from afar, some conservation organizations and clubs are tirelessly working hands-on for the cause. Do your part and donate as much as you can so they can escalate their efforts.
5 Facts About Manatees That Will Blow Your Mind
They have massive lungs
The size of their lungs is two-thirds of their entire body, with a capacity of up to 90% to replenish oxygen.
They eat a lot
They survive on seagrass and spend eight hours grazing every day to support their weight.
They continuously replace teeth
There is always a new set of teeth growing behind the existing ones inside a manatee’s mouth.
They breathe through their nose and hear with invisible ears
Their mouth is only to chew on seagrass, not for breathing and they have good hearing despite having no apparent ear structure.
They were thought to be ‘sexy’ mermaids.
Long before they were known as manatees, explorers and sailors thought the creatures were mermaids.
Why We Love Manatee Appreciation Day
They are the closest thing we have to mermaids
Childhood stories and movies have made all of us yearn for the creature that has two hands and a fish-like tail. A manatee comes closest to this, and we would never want them to go extinct.
They are surprisingly playful
One would think they would be lazy as anything given the weight they have to support. Not at all. If you haven’t watched a manatee amusing himself, rolling in the water, and making you go ‘aww,’ you’re missing out on a beautiful sight!
They are dedicated mothers
The female manatee remains pregnant for 12 months (a whole year!) and takes care of her calf for several years just like a human mother. It’s outrageous to kill so many years of love and nourishment!
Manatee Appreciation Day dates