When aerial surveys of the West Indian manatee began in 1991, officials counted 1,267 of them in Florida. Now there are more than 6,300 in Florida alone, and the entire population is estimated at 13,000 manatees in its range which includes the Caribbean and the northern coasts of Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Costa Rica's Legislative Assembly passed a bill naming the manatee as the country's national marine symbol. The sea cow -- as the creature is also known -- will be Costa Rica's first-ever marine symbol and also the first national symbol for the eastern province of Limón.
Only a few manatees remain in Costa Rica's rivers. In an effort to spread awareness and save the endangered aquatic mammal, conservationists and a group of children from Caribbean province of Limón are pushing to make the sea cow the country's national marine mammal.
Though there aren't many left in Costa Rica's rivers, the manatee is about to become a little more famous after a bill declaring it the national marine mammal passed a first round of legislative debate on Monday.
Even for a children’s book, “The Manatee’s Big Day” (Zona Tropical Press) is goofy. For the first few pages, Erin Van Rheenen’s animal adventure looks like a story of zoological teamwork: There’s a shark in the jungles of Tortuguero on Costa Rica's northern Caribbean coast, and the animals are all freaked out. Instead of fearing each other, the rival species band together against their common enemy.