Thank you for your question regarding the importance of manatees and their
role in the ecosystem. In 1988, Dr. Thomas J. O'Shea published an article
as part of the Third Southeastern Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Symposium
that provides a good answer to your question. Part of his article addresses
the humanistic justification for protecting manatees as follows:
Our nation's attitude toward its own conservation responsibilities is
undergoing a period of rapid change. Public values embrace a wide array of
species beyond those with a traditional dollar or recreational value.
Federal legislation such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the
Endangered Species Act, new laws of the various states, institution of
nongame programs, and growing membership in broad-based conservation groups
all signal a widening respect and concern for the diversity of life as a
reflection of the quality of life. Permitting the extinction of any species
is an irrovacable desecration of this emerging view of the quality of life.
Nevertheless, some species are cast more to the forefront of the public eye
than others, and in Florida the manatee ranks among them. In some sense
perhaps this rank among taxa of concern is not disproportionate. If the
future is lost for manatees we lose the only representative of an entire
mammalian order in our country, and the only example we have of the
marvelous adaptions represented by this level of evolutionary
distinctiveness. We will lose our self-respect by eliminating a benign
species with no direct conflict with man for resources, a species tough
enough and flexible enough to have endured centuries of pressure and
environmental change. Florida is undergoing prodigious development, yet
remnants of its fauna manage to persist in a remarkable, highly visible
interface between wildlife and man. Maintenance of that interface with
continued development is a great experiment in how far our society can go
while still upholding principles of respect for the diversity of life.
Manatees currently have the biological chance and the legal justification to
persist, but if the species is lost to future generations it will be a
bellwether, a signal that through lack of commitment we can lose the battle
to maintain the compatibility of civilization and living diversity.
O'Shea, Thomas J., "The Past, Present, and Future of Manatees in the
Southeastern United States: Realities, Misunderstandings, and Enigmas."
Proceedings of the Third Southeastern Nongame and Endangered Wildlife
Symposium, pp. 184-204. Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, Game and Fish
Division, Social Circle, GA, 1988.
I hope this answers your question. We appreciate your interest in manatees.
Save the Manatee Club
500 N. Maitland Ave.
Maitland, FL 32751
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 11:44 AM
Subject: Manatees Question
I'm writing a paper for an Environmental Literature class about manatees. One of the questions that our instructor has asked me to answer is "Why should the manatees be saved?" . I personally feel that an animal like the manatee that has been around for millions of years has the right to live on forever. I'd like to know if there is anything you could add to this?
Thank you for your time.
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