Wednesday, February 28, 2007

more manatees

This is one of the photos I took of the manatees at Three Sisters off the Crystal River in northern Florida. Last year was one of the worst for manatee deaths. This gorgeous quiet spring-fed lagoon is a haven ~ at night, anyway ~ for these gentle creatures. That's my 62-year-old (much older) sister paddling away in her kayak. She and her husband patrol the area one day a week in an effort to prevent abuse of the manatees, but they are volunteers with no authority and, alas, no guns.

The manatees come here at night to sleep. Our photos were taken late in the day, with the sleeping giants on the bottom of the springs. Without waking, they'll rise to the surface to breathe, then sink to the bottom again.

Days, this area will be packed with people, shore to shore. It's surely terrifying for the manatees, who only want to get out and get to the ocean.

Protection is a disastrous tangle of federal and state regulations and the manatees suffer for it. Stress makes them more susceptible to red tides (as the result of fertilizer runoff) and illnesses.

The mouth of this peaceful place leads to Crystal River and this is where the charter boats lie in wait every morning. At any given time, there are hundreds of people in the water trying to interact with these wild animals.

To get out of their nighttime sanctuary and make it to the Gulf, they've got to get through this horror:

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