Endangered manatee faces yet another threat - WFLA News Channel 8

Endangered manatee faces yet another threat

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A manatee at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota A manatee at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota
SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The endangered manatee faces a number of challenges to its existence.

A new study from scientists at the Mote Marine Laboratory, in Sarasota, finds that the creatures might be vulnerable to diseases even after they are treated.

"We've known from previous years that many manatees die from red tide toxin exposure, but they don't all die," said Dr. Cathy Walsh, senior scientist at the laboratory.

Some of them are taken to the Lowry Park Zoo, rehabbed and released, but Walsh says that the endangered creatures might not be completely recovering.

"We are seeing some effects on the immune system, so there are some effects on the health of the manatee," Dr. Walsh said.

People can get a quick injection and the illness is gone, but the same isn't so for manatees.

"If they were to encounter another type of disease, they may be more susceptible to that type of disease," said Walsh.

In Florida, nearly 800 manatees have died in 2013.  About a third of those deaths are from red tide poisoning.

Getting manatees into rehab helps them recover, but experts are hoping to learn more about how to help the marine mammals stay healthy when they are taken back into their natural habitat.

There is a way you can help: if you recognize a sick manatee, report it to Florida Fish and Wildlife.

Signs of illness in a manatee include trouble swimming, back arching or unusual twitching movements.  

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