Manatees deserve a home locally

Published 12:01 am Saturday, January 30, 2016

I remember the first time I fell in love it manatees. I was in elementary school; we were given different animals to do projects on.

My teacher went around the room asking each student which animal we wanted to do a project on and when my name was called, I screamed ‘I want the seacow!’ Everyone laughed, but I didn’t really care.

Now an adult, well I’m 23, I guess that counts as an adult, I still love manatees.

According to an article done by National Geographic, manatees can live for up to 40 years, grow to be a little over eight feet long and weigh anywhere from 440 to 1,300 pounds.

After I graduated in May, my mom and I took a trip down to Florida. Normally when we go there, it’s to visit Disney. This trip was more about animals. We drove down to see Western Indian manatees. I was so excited. I remember when we got to Crystal River and near our hotel there was a sign for a manatee sighting tour.  Not going to lie, I did a happy dance.

The goal of the trip was to get up close with the creatures by swimming with them. One of the main things the boat captain said was not to chase the manatees; he advised we let them come to us. Well, the people in our group weren’t very good at listening. They chased that poor creature through the water like crazy and ended up chasing him away.

The second trip we took was just riding in a boat, no getting in the water. We saw more manatees on that boat ride, which was nice. There were no screaming children or tourists splashing around, just a calm boat. Some got so close I could have bent down and touched them. I thought my trip had been made, but I was wrong.

The last time I saw manatees in the wild was near a boat launch in Florida. We were driving around trying to get closer to the water then I saw something. I made my mom stop the car so I could get it.

There they were, there must have been 10, maybe more. They were swimming around, playing and just having a good time. There was a couple in a kayak, and the manatees just swam around them. Some came up to the pier, where I was standing, to eat something growing on the dock.

There was one manatee that I will never forget because of its scars. This large beautiful animal was covered from nose to tail with pink and light gray scars, probably caused by the propeller of a boat. The poor thing broke my heart.

Over the years, there have been sightings here in Louisiana, more specifically in Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.

I remember seeing a sign at Frenier Landing in the water, warning boaters to watch for manatees. I read that during the winter months manatees gather in Florida because they like the warm water, but during the summer months they are seen in Louisiana.

Soon, the peaceful giant creatures may no longer be classified as endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to reclassify the West Indian manatees as threatened because of “significant improvements” in their population.

In 1991 there was an estimated 1,267 manatees in Florida, now there are more than 6,000. That just blows my mind! I was so excited when I found out I made sure my mom and I drank tea with our special manatee tea infusers. Of course, I posted the picture on social media.

There is still a 90-day “comment period” where the anyone can summit feedback on the reclassification. If the proposal is approved, which I hope it is, the new classification will go into action in 2017.

Raquel Derganz Baker is the news reporter for L’OBSERVATEUR. Email her at