Ribs jutting out from its side, the manatee appears to be starving in the video shot by Dana Pinnick at Manatee Hammock Campground in Titusville.
About a minute into the video, the thin sea cow looked to be searching the rocks for algae or any plant life, next to a sandy bottom barren of seagrass — a manatee’s typical diet.
But up to 90% of the seagrass coverage died off here in some spots of the Indian River Lagoon more than a decade ago, and very little has grown back since. Severe algae blooms choked out the bottom grass, prime habitat for manatees, fish and other marine life, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
The manatee’s status was unclear early Friday but crews from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and/or SeaWorld typically assess such animals and evaluate them for potential rescue and rehabilitation at SeaWorld’s Orlando facility. The video shows a couple other thin-looking manatees nearby.
Pinnick, who’s camping at Manatee Hammock, said she shot the video on June 21, then saw the same manatee again on Wednesday. FWC came out to the campground on Thursday, she said, but the manatee already was gone. “It was definitely the same one,” Pinnick said Friday.
“They came out and did look for it, but it had already swam off,” Pinnick said. “They come up right there and they will eat the algae on the rocks right there. That was the very first time I’ve personally ever seen one that isn’t healthy.”
Manatees are dying at a record pace this year, with some 40% of them thought to have starved. Through June 25, at least 819 manatees had died in Florida in 2021. A record 830 manatees died in 2013, according to FWC statistics.
REPORT A SICK, INJURED, DEAD, OR TAGGED MANATEE
Call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Toll-Free Number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922), press “7” to speak with an operator.
Cellular phone customers: *FWC or #FWC