Species Spotlight: Manatee

Species Spotlight: Manatee

Protection Status:

Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

Did you know there are mermaids in Florida? Well, maybe not the kinds you’re thinking of. Manatees may not have  long, flowing hair or seashell bras, but the massive, coastal-dwelling mammals have a long history of being mistaken as mermaids. Unfortunately, if we don’t act fast, manatees, just like real mermaids, might not exist. 

Every day, Greater Good Charities’ Project Peril Program works hard to protect animals who are in peril, threatened, endangered, and close to extinction; now, we’re featuring a special animal on our website every month! Our planet is filled with so many wonderful creatures that need your help. From the Asian elephant to the Florida manatees, our animal neighbors are in peril. Learn more about our efforts to defend the wild and the amazing animals we’re fighting for in our monthly Species Spotlight.




If you think that manatees look similar to elephants then you’re definitely onto something! Manatees and elephants evolved from the same animal over 50 million years ago, which means they’re sort of like cousins. It’s no surprise that manatees can weigh over 1,000 lbs. Commonly dubbed the “sea cow”, the manatee is large AND spends a lot of time grazing the meadow – the seagrass meadow, that is. 

There are three manatee species in total: the West Indian, West African, and Amazonian manatees. If you’ve swam with the manatees in Florida, then it was a West Indian manatee you met. 

Though manatees have lost their endangered status, they are still under severe threat. There are less than 6,000 manatees in the entire world, and they are officially protected from being hunted or captured under U.S. law. 

In 2021, 1,110 manatees (about 15 percent of the population) passed away, making it the deadliest year on record. Most of these deaths occurred due to starvation. A large power plant in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) of Florida provides warm waters during the winter months. Nearly one-third of Florida Manatees seek out these warm waters every winter, but the IRL has lost 60% of its seagrass beds due to harmful algal blooms and poor water quality, leaving manatees to starve.

With seagrass meadows continuing to disappear due to pollution from sewage, manure, and fertilizer run-off AND natural habitats being lost to coastal development, massive numbers of manatees will continue to be lost each year. That’s why Greater Good Charities is working to provide produce for manatees recovering from malnutrition. Want to help? Just a $25 donation can provide 30 lbs of nourishing food to help manatees survive! 

The marshy coastlines and rivers of the Caribbean, Gulf Coast, the Amazonian Basin, and West Africa are where you can find the manatee. Because they primarily eat seagrass and seagrass needs sunlight to grow, manatees prefer shallow water. They also need warm areas to thrive. In fact, manatees CAN’T survive in temperatures below 60 degrees.


Species populations are declining at an alarming rate of 69% according to the Living Planet Report 2022. Saving endangered species like the pangolin will take commitment and long-term support.



HubSpot Video

March 1st is World Seagrass Day, but we want to celebrate the impact manatees have on the environment all month long! Manatees are kind of like living lawn mowers. When they eat seagrass, they help keep the seagrass beds short and healthy – seagrass is incredibly important in our oceans. Seagrass prevents erosion, helps clean the water, and acts as a home and hiding spot to many species of fish. So, without seagrass, manatees starve; without manatees, seagrass becomes obstructive to waterways and starts to harm, rather than help, the environment. 

Video © Florida Fish and Wildlife Foundation


No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened


Threat #1


Threat #2


Threat #3

where we work

We work in strategic areas with a need for biodiversity protection. This includes areas that span biodiversity hotspots that are home to unique species not found anywhere else. Conservation, education, and protection are crucial to protect the endangered species of flora and fauna in these areas.