Meet a Baby Manatee Named Spirit

Hi, I am 1 year old manatee and my name is Spirit. I live with my mom in the warm waters of Florida.

My mom and her friends group all of us babies in what is called a nursery group. I look a bit like my cousin, the elephant. My grayish brown color is often influenced by the presence of algae on my thick and wrinkled skin. In fact, I look like something between a seal and walrus because of my whiskered snout, a walrus without tusks. When I am in shallow water, my front flippers are like arms so that I can "walk" in the water. They also help me to bring food to my flexible, grasping lips. I can swim because of my powerful, flat tail. Do you think I am strange looking? I am also known as a sea cow - one of the gentlest mammals that live under water.

Like all other manatees, I am an herbivore. We eat primarily submerged and floating plants. You might think we are quite an eater when I tell you that the adults spend around 6 – 8 hours a day, just feeding! Rest of the day we travel or rest. Mom is teaching me all the routes of travel. She also teaches me survival skills.

My nostrils, on top of my face, have flaps, which seal them up when I go underwater. Do you know manatees can hold their breath up for up to 15 minutes underwater?

I’ll tell you another fascinating fact about us manatees. In the olden times, when people didn’t know who we were, sailors actually thought we were mermaids! Isn’t that funny?

I love staying in the warm waters of Florida. Mom says that when the temperature falls below 68 degrees, we have to migrate to coastal areas, estuaries, canals and rivers in southern Georgia and Florida. If we stay on, we could suffer cold stress and even die! So, in the winters, you can spot me in rivers that are slow-moving or shallow bays and coves – among the luscious sea grass beds and warm springs. My mom says I have some distant cousins who stay in

Puerto Rico and coastal areas of the Caribbean and Central and South America.

One of my favorite holiday spots is Crystal River, Florida , they have actually set up a sanctuary for manatees like me where we are protected, but can still have interaction with the thousands of human visitors that come and swim with us each year.

Something that is quite sad is that there are very few of us left now. We are so naïve that we are drawn to the hum of the motor on the powerboats. The boat propellers hurt us on our backs and tails – many of us still bear scars. At times, the carelessly tossed fishing lines or nets tangled in our tails or fins, causing nasty cuts that easily get infected; some of my friends and their parents have been killed by speeding boats. These collide into them while they are out surfacing for air.

You can make a difference to our lives.

Just follow the rules –

Make sure when you are boating to obey posted speed zones, in the shallow waters where we feed and rest, make sure that you go slowly.

When you see us in the wild, respect our natural behaviors. Don’t just disturb us because you want to pet us, we will come to you when we want to be pet and play…and especially never give us food or freshwater.