Almost 200 threatened Florida manatees have been filmed together basking in shallow waters off the state’s west coast, the remarkable drone footage also showing a pod of playful dolphins swimming through the group.
The images were shot last week near St Petersburg by See Through Canoe, an outdoors adventure company that frequently posts videos of encounters with Florida’s marine life on its social media channels.
The YouTube video of the manatees and dolphins at play is unusual in that it captures the species together in such high numbers. The Florida fish and wildlife conservation commission estimates that only about 7,500 manatees exist in the wild in the south-eastern US, up from only around 1,250 two decades ago but far short of historical highs. Hundreds die each year from watercraft strikes and disease.
“Dolphins and manatees don’t interact super often, mainly because manatees spend a lot of their time in fresher waters than you find dolphins,” said Mike Heithaus, dean of Florida International University College of Arts, Sciences and Education and professor of the university’s department of biological sciences.
“There’s no particular reason they wouldn’t interact, but manatee numbers are down and that makes it less likely. The more unique part is to see that many manatees from a drone and it’s always cool to see dolphins swimming through them.
“If we are successful in rebuilding manatee populations to where they should be, we could see this more often. It’s a glimpse of what we could do with the oceans if we work really hard to restore them to what they used to be. The threats are still there and the population isn’t where it used to be.”
The video came to prominence in an article written by Annie Reneau, an associate editor of the website Upworthy, a website dedicated to “positive storytelling”.
“As human activity continues to impact the wellbeing and survival of creatures like the manatee, we can use videos like this as inspiration and incentive to implement more environmentally responsible habits,” Reneau said.