March 31, as I’m sure you already know, is Manatee Appreciation Day.
Why we don’t all have the day off is anyone’s guess. How am I expected to carry on with day-to-day activities while appreciating manatees as much as I do?
I mean, just look at this manatea infuser. Sorry, I digress.
Here are some fun facts to help you appreciate manatees on Manatee Appreciation Day, their biggest day:
1. Long ago, explorers used to think that manatees were sexy mermaids.
Here’s a quick, totally 100 percent real photo to show you one such seafarer’s fairy tale ending:
“But …,” you say, “manatees look like someone tossed a bean bag chair into a swamp. Who would confuse a manatee with some nubile temptress of the sea?”
Well, eff your beauty standards.
Everyone knows that during the age of exploration, Rubenesque females with a grayish complexion and whiskers were considered the most desirable by seagoing menfolk.
2. There are three different manatee species living around the world.
Folks here in the U.S. are likely most familiar with the West Indian manatee, of which the Florida manatee is a subspecies, but did you know there is also a West African manatee and an Amazonian manatee?
Amazonian manatees lack the nails that the other two species both have on the ends of their flippers. They swim in the fresh waters of the Amazon Basin in South America and are the smallest of the three species.
West African Manatees look just like the West Indian manatees we see here in the U.S.—but with slightly flatter snouts. I wonder if they have accents. But don’t ever ask a West Indian manatee to do an impression of one of the other species. It’s 2016. That’s offensive.
3. Manatees are, like, sort of almost completely vegetarian/vegan!
Manatees are mostly herbivorous and known to eat dozens of aquatic plant species. They scour the sea floor to dig up vegetation to snack on. And while they will occasionally scoop up some plankton or an errant clam while snacking on greenery, the bulk of their daily diet is plant-based. Some manatees will eat up to 15 percent of their own body weight in plants in a single day.
Are you trying to go completely 100 percent vegan? Sign the pledge to go vegan today, then order yourself one of our fancy vegan starter kits to hit the ground running. (Note: Manatees shouldn’t hit the ground, and they can’t run, but they can swim up to 15 miles per hour in short bursts.)
4. Perhaps you think that seals or walruses are the closest living relative to the manatee. Wrong!
The manatee’s closest living relatives are actually the elephant and the hyrax. What’s a hyrax?
There’s one! Hyraxes don’t get their own appreciation day, so please take a moment to appreciate them now. Don’t worry—manatees are gentle animals. They will be happy to share some of the spotlight with their furry land-mammal cousins.
5. Florida manatees are totally making a comeback.
Just this year, lawmakers announced that they wanted to update the conservation status of Florida manatees from “endangered” to “threatened.” Manatees have no natural predators, but human-related habitat destruction and collisions with watercraft do pose big threats to them. Because of increased public awareness and work to protect these gentle animals at the state and federal levels, manatee populations in Florida have been making a bigger comeback than the cast of Fuller House. It’s illegal in the United States to kill or harm a manatee.
But you know what isn’t illegal? Appreciating manatees.
Remember: While some marine parks and zoos display captive manatees, the best way for you to show sea cows the appreciation that they deserve is to observe them quietly and respectfully in their native habitats. For all marine mammals who are held in captivity, life is dull and miserable, and confinement can damage both their physical and mental health. Manatees—and all animals—deserve better. Never support SeaWorld or other abusement parks that display animals for a profit.
While you, of course, can love and appreciate any animal any day of the year (by say … not killing or eating them?), it’ll be a full 364 before we officially get to revel in the glory of Manatee Appreciation Day again.
Let’s soak it in.