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Making Contact “Most manatees don’t want to have much of anything to do with people,” says Patrick Rose. He’s an aquatic biologist. He also heads the Save the Manatee Club. Rose believes that swimmers should


keep their distance from manatees. If a manatee chooses to come closer, that’s up to the manatee. But swimmers should never crowd manatees. Local activist Tracy Colson agrees.


“T ere should be no rubbing or touching,” she says. “T at’s what dogs are for. Manatees are wild animals.” Most visitors are respectful. T ey try


to follow some basic rules. Don’t disturb resting manatees. Don’t get in their way when they are swimming. But Colson points out that there have been abuses. Some people try to ride manatees. Some guides take babies from their mothers to pass around to tourists.


Overcrowding T ere are other issues, too. Manatees live in the water. But they breathe air. T ey spend much of their time near the surface. T ey also move slowly. T is puts them at risk from motor boat injuries. More than 80 manatees have died each year in the last fi ve years due to watercraſt . Advocates want lower speed limits to protect manatees. Overcrowding is also an issue. Tour boats


take snorkelers and divers to places around Kings Bay. T e narrow canal alongside T ree Sisters Springs is very popular. At times, more than 300 manatees crowd into this area. Kayakers and swimmers might surround


the manatees. Twenty or more tour boats might lie anchored in the canal. Overcrowding not only causes stress for the manatees, but the visitors, too! Some argue that access to the manatees


should be restricted. Yet tourism related to manatees is a big business. As much as $30 million is brought to the area every year from tourists. For now, there seems to be enough room


for both man and manatee. But maintaining that balance may always be a challenge.


WORDWISE


activist: a person who campaigns for some kind of social change


advocate: a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy


endangered: at risk of extinction 6


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