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West Indian Manatee No Longer Endangered, But It's Not a Cause for Celebration -- Here's Why

Apr 01, 2017 11:25 AM EDT

After the Manatee Appreciation Day, the U.S. Department of the Interior has announced on March 30 that the West Indian manatee is no longer "endangered" and has been delisted as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act. However, environmentalists are not so happy about it.

A press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) revealed that the West Indian manatee population has bounced back in recent years after being listed as endangered in 1973. After a three-decade long conservation, FWS noted that the West Indian manatee has soared to 6,600 in Florida alone.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked hand in hand with state and local governments, businesses, industry, and countless stakeholders over many years to protect and restore a mammal that is cherished by people around the world," said Ryan Zinke, U.S. Secretaty of the Interior.

However, FWS says there's still more work to be done. Despite the milestone, efforts will still continue to ensure the "long-term future" of the West Indian manatee.

“Today we both recognize the significant progress we have made in conserving manatee populations while reaffirming our commitment to continuing this species’ recovery and success throughout its range," said Jim Kurth, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s acting director.

Read Also: Hello Snooty! Oldest Living Manatee in Captivity Makes It to Guiness World Records 

Despite the good news, some animal groups are protesting the recent decision, saying that the West Indian manatee delistment may result to greater threats.

In a report from The Washington Post, Save the Manatee Club highlighted the increasing manatee deaths due to watercraft collisions. The nonprofit organization also pointed out FWS's lack of long-term plan with regard to habitat loss of West Indian manatees.

"With the new federal administration threatening to cut 75% of regulations, including those that protect our wildlife and air and water quality, the move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one," Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Vernon Buchanan described the delistment of the West Indian manatee as “HUGELY disappointing."

Frank Jackalone, director of the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, said the delistment of the West Indian manatee might lead to local and state government loosening up on boating rules, as per Reuters.

The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), according to the National Wildlife Federation, is one of the four living species of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia. Sometimes referred as "sea cow," the animal has a grey color and features a seal-shaped body with a pair of flippers and a paddle-like tail. An adult West Indian manatee grows about 10 feet and weighs between 800 to 1,200 lbs.

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