Manatee Appreciation Day Date in the current year: March 27, 2024

Manatee Appreciation Day Manatee Appreciation Day is observed annually on the last Wednesday of March. It was established to celebrate amazing marine mammals that are sometimes referred to as sea cows and raise awareness of their conservation status and the threats they face.

Manatees are large marine mammals of the genus Trichechus. Their closest living relative is the dugong. Manatees can live in both salt and freshwater; they inhabit the shallow coastal areas and rivers of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Amazon basin, and the West African coast.

There are three extant manatee species: the Amazonian manatee (native to the Amazon basin in Basil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), the West Indian manatee (native to the Caribbean), and the African manatee (native to western Africa). The West Indian manatee, also known as the North American manatee, has two subspecies: the Florida manatee and the Antillean manatee.

Manatees are fully aquatic animals that spend most of their time near the surface of water and emerge every few minutes to replenish their oxygen. They can stay submerged for about 20 minutes if needed. Manatees are herbivores that feed on various freshwater and saltwater plants. Manatees spend about half of the day sleeping and up to seven hours a day grazing. Due to their large size (the average length of an adult manatee is over 9 feet), they have to eat about 50 kg of plants daily (up to 15% of their weight).

Interestingly, manatees have the lowest brain-to-body weight ratio of any mammal, but they are far from being unintelligent. These gentle giants have good long-term memory, task-learning abilities comparable to that of dolphins, and highly complex and intricate social interactions with one another.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies all manatee species as vulnerable, and both the Antillean and Florida subspecies of the North American manatee are classified as endangered. Due to their huge size, manatees have very few natural predators, and most threats that they face are man-made. They include habitat destruction, collisions with ships and boats, entanglement in fishing nets and debris, harmful algal blooms, and illegal hunting.

Manatee Appreciation Day was started by Save the Manatee Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting manatees and their habitat that was founded in 1981 by singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett and the 38th governor of Florida (and later a US senator) Bob Graham. Since then, it has been supported by many conservation organizations, including PETA and the Word Wide Fund for Nature. The main goal of this awareness day is to highlight the plight of manatees and promote their conservation.

There are many ways to celebrate Manatee Appreciation Day and raise manatee awareness. You can learn more about these amazing animals and share the facts you’ve learned with others, symbolically adopt a manatee, donate to a conservation organization that funds manatee research, rescue, rehabilitation and protection, take a pledge to live a more sustainable lifestyle to save marine habitats, and spread awareness on social media with the hashtags #ManateeAppreciationDay and #SaveTheManatees.

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Manatee Appreciation Day, environmental observances, vulnerable species, Save the Manatee Club, manatee conservation