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As Populations Rebound, Manatees Set to Lose 'Endangered' Tag

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Some good news out of the warm waters: manatees, once pushed to the brink of extinction, have made a tremendous rebound. So much so in fact, U.S. wildlife officials are recommending the species no longer be listed as endangered.

That would mean that after nearly 50 years of being categorized as nearing extinction, the sea cow is thriving. At least relatively. The total population is now estimated to be roughly 13,000, with almost half of them living in Florida. The latter number is especially impressive, as around 25 years ago, there were counted to be 1,267 manatees living around the southern state.

Manatee populations dropped significantly in part because of the presence of boats, as the slow-moving mammals, spending so much time just under the surface of the water, would be struck or managed by propellers.

Manatees are not completely out of the clear, and wouldn’t disappear entirely from any noteworthy list. From ‘endangered,’ manatees would be downgraded to ‘threatened,’ meaning that while they are not currently in a position where they could become extinct, they could move closer to that direction if not monitored.

“It’s like taking manatees out of intensive care and putting them in a regular care facility,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife manatee coordinator Jim Valade.

However, some conservationists argue that the manatee’s endangered distinction should remain, for fear that the change would result in less awareness and eventually an increase in death, putting them back in harm’s way. But because they’re also protected under federal law as well, it is not expected that manatee mortality would increase.

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