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manatees florida wildlife
Photo by geoff trodd on Unsplash

Manatees, aka "sea cows," are starving to death in Florida so officials are staging an intervention.

Manatees are one of Earth's more oddly beloved creatures. They're cute in a "so ugly they're cute" kind of way, and their bulbous, slowly meandering bodies have earned them the nickname "sea cows." They are a migratory species, and in the U.S. they congregate mainly in the waters of Florida.

Sadly, manatees are also dying at an alarming rate after only being taken off the endangered species list in 2017. During the first nine months of 2021, nearly 10% of Florida's manatee population died—more than double the five-year average. Many of those deaths were due to water quality issues impacting the growth of seagrass, one of the manatee's primary food sources.

Boat strikes, habitat loss and toxic algae blooms also threaten the species, but far too many are dying of simple starvation. According to WUSF, at least 58% of the seagrass in the northern Indian River Lagoon has been lost since 2009, and at least 96% of the Banana River's seagrass is gone. Both river habitats have long served as winter homes for manatees.


To help stave off starvation, officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have staged a salad intervention of sorts. CNN reports that around 350 manatees are currently coming to a temporary field response station in Cape Canaveral to get their daily servings of romaine and butter lettuce. Since the feeding program started, it has served between 25 and 800 manatees a day.

The sea cows salad bar serves up 3,000 pounds of lettuce a day, and officials say it's helping.

"At this point in time, we have been successful. Manatees are eating the romaine," Ron Mezich of the FWC told CNN. "We are exposing [a] large amount of animals to this food source and we are making a difference." The lettuce has nutrients and digestible carbohydrates the sea cows need, he said.

The program has been funded largely through donations from the public and is slated to continue through March.

Hopefully, the FWC will see improvement in the manatee mortality numbers as a result of its efforts. As of February 11, there have already been 261 manatee deaths in the state, though most are still awaiting necropsies to determine the cause of death.

Everyone can take part in helping these gentle giants have a healthy future by following guidance for wise use of waterways, supporting legislation for wildlife protection, reducing and cleaning up pollution along beaches and waterways and encouraging leaders to take meaningful action on climate change.

Don't try to throw your own salad in the ocean to feed the manatees, though. Officials recommend leaving the lettuce to experts.

Marlon Brando and Sacheen Littlefeather.

Nearly 50 years after Sacheen Littlefeather endured boos and abusive jokes at the Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is issuing a formal apology. In 1973, Littlefeather refused Marlon Brando's Best Actor Oscar on his behalf for his iconic role in “The Godfather” at the ceremony to protest the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

Littlefeather is a Native American civil rights activist who was born to a Native American (Apache and Yaqui) father and a European American mother.

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via Pixabay

A father cradling his infant son.

It's almost impossible to be handed a baby and not immediately break into baby talk. In fact, it seems incredibly strange to even consider talking to a baby like one would an adult. Studies have shown that babies prefer baby talk, too.

Researchers from Stanford found that babies prefer to be spoken to in baby talk or “parentese” as scientists refer to the sing-songy cooing we do when talking to infants.

“Often parents are discouraged from using baby talk by well-meaning friends or even health professionals,” Michael Frank, a Stanford psychologist, told Stanford News. “But the evidence suggests that it’s actually a great way to engage with your baby because babies just like it–it tells them, ‘This speech is meant for you!’”

The big question that has eluded scientists is whether parentese is a universal language or varies by culture.

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Bobby McFerrin demonstrated the power of the pentatonic scale without saying a word.

Bobby McFerrin is best known for his hit song “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” which showcased his one-man vocal and body percussion skills (and got stuck in our heads for years). But his musicality extends far beyond the catchy pop tune that made him a household name. The things he can do with his voice are unmatched and his range of musical styles and genres is impressive.

The Kennedy Center describes him: “With a four-octave range and a vast array of vocal techniques, Bobby McFerrin is no mere singer; he is music's last true Renaissance man, a vocal explorer who has combined jazz, folk and a multitude of world music influences - choral, a cappella, and classical music - with his own ingredients.”

McFerrin is also a music educator, and one of his most memorable lessons is a simple, three-minute interactive demonstration in which he doesn’t say a single word.

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