An effort launched to try to rescue a manatee spotted on a Mississippi River tributary near downtown Memphis, Tennessee was called off late Friday afternoon. The rescue team searched the area throughout the day on Thursday and Friday using boats, sonar equipment, and a helicopter, but did not have any luck locating the endangered animal. Biologists say it’s an unprecedented journey – at least in modern times. Fossil records show manatees once thrived far up the Mississippi River, well beyond Memphis, Tennessee. But now it’s rare to see them anywhere but Florida…especially during this time of the year. Save the Manatee Club’s Executive Director – Pat Rose – says while a manatee did make it all the way to Rhode Island a few months ago…this trip is far more surprising.
“Swimming that far up the Mississippi River is even more unusual. So its distance isn’t quite as great perhaps but that’s a major journey to go against the current and so forth and to be this far up. We don’t know of any other historical known event when a manatee has swam that far north up the Mississippi.”
Biologists are concerned because it’s in water that’s well-below 68-degrees…the temperature at which manatees begin suffering cold stress, which can kill them. It’s estimated the manatee swam more than 700 miles against the current and dodged busy boat traffic to reach the Memphis destination.
Rescuers have ended their search for a wayward manatee seen swimming in a tributary of the Mississippi River near downtown Memphis Tennessee last week. The Save the Manatee Club says the endangered animal couldn’t be found but that’s not unusual and they’ll be back if anyone see it again. In the winter months, manatees are found primarily in Florida. The club’s director Pat Rose says the semi-tropical species cannot usually tolerate water temperatures much lower than 68 degrees for long periods of time. The river was at 65 degrees Friday.
“When manatees are exposed to water below 68 degrees for an extended period of time they start suffering signs of cold stress and they’ll actually stop eating and their metabolic system and their digestive systems begin to shut down. And if they stay in too cold of water it can actually cause them to die ultimately.”
Water temperatures below 70 degrees usually cause manatees to move into warm water refuge areas such as natural springs or warm water effluents of power plants. A few manatees may range as far west as Texas and as far north as Virginia. One was even sighted as far north as Massachusetts this summer, but these sightings are rare.
Monday, 30 October 2006 00:00
Memphis ManateeWritten by WGCU Newsroom