Thursday, February 5, 2015

Manatees Push Back

Manatees in their 'refuge'. Photo: CNN

I saw this headline Florida Manatees Crowd Out Humans, and shouted, "It's about time!"

It's about time the manatees got in a little payback after years and years of the reverse. It's not only manatees.

Habitat loss is one of the main reasons species go extinct on land and sea. A synonym for habitat loss easily could be: people crowding out ____________ (enter animal name here).

Humans love to claim territory, grab everything within  reach and consume it, conquer it. Straighten its curves and bury its green gifts.

What's really happening is we're knocking healthy ecosystems out of balance, which is bad for us, and we're destroying features like wetlands and forests that are there for good reasons, which is also bad for us.

It's almost unnoticed this crowding out of our wild brethren as it often happens slowly, foot by foot, acre by acre -- like a million small cuts until we've bled the place of nature.

I swam with the manatees in the Crystal River -- the exact Florida location mentioned in the article. It's as if swimming in a suburban neighborhood where the streets are the river. Houses jut into the water and boast impossibly trim lawns, cement patios, and tar-covered bulkheads hard against the flow.

This is where we find one of the last refuges for manatees -- a small roped-off area. Signs everywhere read Do Not Cross. I saw three people slip under the rope to get closer to the huddled animals. Boats laden with tourists chugged nearby, and people fell and jumped into the water, splashing and shouting on the edge of the manatees' tiny sanctuary.

But seeing nature can be a great thing. "Swimming with manatees is a tremendous experience, and I know that when done properly, everybody benefits," said Andrew Gude, who manages Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, according to the article.

Just wish we humans could handle it better. We act as if we own everything natural so we can do whatever we want, including disrespect it and the wildlife within.

I bet somewhere, perhaps deep in their cerebral cortex, there are people who read that headline -- Florida Manatees Crowd Out Humans -- and are angry at the manatees. How can they get away with that? We need to push back! 

That's right humans, keep pushing and consuming everything in sight and soon enough, we'll be standing alone, knee deep in our own waste. In many ways, we already are.