“A Manatee Moment” Update

Tracy Colson with one of the Club's boating banners aboard her kayak on Kings Bay in Crystal River, Florida. (Photo by Steve Sapienza.)

Tracy Colson with a  boating banner aboard her kayak on Kings Bay in Crystal River, Florida. (Photo by Steve Sapienza.)

Aquariverse is glad to bring you an update  regarding the Manatee mother and calf featured in our recent “A Manatee Moment” post.

Every see a manatee smile? This is a happy update.  photo: sarasotamagazine.com

Every see a manatee smile? This is a happy update.
photo: sarasotamagazine.com

Dolphin Research Center Director of Media & Marketing Mary Stella has confirmed, “Thankfully, this manatee’s boat strike did not appear life threatening.  It wasn’t preventing the mom from feeding, moving, caring for her baby, and doing other normal manatee behavior.  That’s all good.”

Normal behavior as depicted in this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service footage:

Meanwhile, back in the Florida Keys, Stella’s confirmation provides an opportunity to correct and clarify some of the concerns expressed by those who had discovered the manatee nursing her injuries, and her calf, near the dock of  Marathon, Florida’s Coconut Cay resort canal the second week of March 2014.


Soon after dawn on March 13, a half dozen guests snapped pictures and fretted over the fate of the manatees… that of the mother in particular, as her back showed signs of fresh propeller injuries and a painful looking swelling.

A large gash with visible swelling on the back of the mother manatee. photo: Felicity

A large gash with visible swelling on the back of the mother manatee. photo: Felicity

One of the guests reported having called the  1-888-404-3922  manatee help line posted in the resort’s office, adding, “The vet come right out and gave her an antibiotic injection.”

Stella clarified, “We did respond to a call about that manatee and team members arrived to assess the animal’s condition. “However,” she corrected, “no antibiotic injection was administered by us on scene.”

As to the guests’ belief regarding follow-up checks continuing as long as necessary…

Stella added, “A DRC team member also paid another visit on another day to check on the animal.  We will continue to check out her condition when she’s reported so, yes, that’s true we’d go out every day if needed.”

But the concerned guests also worried the pair would be separated if a rescue crew decided the wounded mother had to be removed to a care facility for  more extensive treatment.

Correcting more dockside murmurings, Stella noted, “We do not bring them to Dolphin Research Center.  We are the only licensed manatee rescue team in the Florida Keys.  We respond to animals throughout the island chain.”


A previous rescue: Photo: Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, www.dolphins.org

A previous rescue:
Photo: Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, http://www.dolphins.org

She added, “Unfortunately, we’re not equipped to provide long-range treatment.  There are other facilities in Florida that provide that care including Miami Seaquarium, Lowry Park Zoo, and SeaWorld Orlando.”

Addressing the guests’ concern that mother and calf could be separated if the mother’s condition didn’t markedly improve…

Manatee calf surfacing just enough for  breather from all the fuss... photo: Felicity

Manatee calf surfacing just enough for breather from all the fuss… photo: Felicity


Stella said, “When a mother manatee has a dependent calf, you really don’t want to have to pull them from the water unless it is absolutely necessary for the mother manatee.  Regardless that our intent is to help, rescues are still stressful for the animals. Sadly, these boat hits happen all too often. Some cause injuries that do necessitate rescues.”

A previous manatee calf rescue: Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, www.dolphins.org

A previous manatee calf rescue:
Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, http://www.dolphins.org

Stella reiterated those who find a manatee in distress in Florida should call: 1-888-404-3922.  “That goes to the FWC who is ultimately responsible for overseeing manatees in this state.”

She continued, “Although we are licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services agency to assess, rescue and transport manatees that are sick, injured, orphaned or otherwise in need of help, we work in cooperation with the FWC.  When we rescue a manatee, if it is determined that it must come into a facility for additional treatment/recovery/rehabilitation, we do not bring them to Dolphin Research Center. There are other facilities in Florida that provide that care including Miami Seaquarium, Lowry Park Zoo, and SeaWorld Orlando.”


You can learn more about Dolphin Research Center, including information about the center’s manatee rescue activities, at www.dolphins.org. For more information about Florida’s manatees in general, please visit: www.myfwc.com.




“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”  – Abraham Lincoln


MANGROVE: Mind the Spiders and Snakes!

If you don’t want to get into a mangle of a tangle when you paddle the mangrove thickets of the Florida Keys…
Bring your map, watch for trail blazes on trees…
Frans Jurgens checks  map against blazes along our tangled route. photo by: felicity

Frans Jurgens checks map against blazes along our tangled route.

…and don’t even think about hauling yourself along branch by branch…                             
before checking for current occupants!    
Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake photo: felicity

Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake

Animal education site PawNation states three nonvenomous  water snakes are native to the Florida Keys: the Florida green water snake, the southern banded snake and the salt water marsh snake. It adds “only solid-colored snakes call the brackish and salt water marshes of the mangroves home…”
~ ~ ~ 
Well, don’t tell that to this fellow!
My husband, Frans, snapped this photo…
Can you id this snake?

Can you id this snake?

…as we enjoyed a recent paddle adventure through a mangrove thicket in Marathon Florida’s Boot Key Nature Preserve…


PawNation includes terrestrial snakes among the mangrove’s denizens, stating that although “most are nonvenomous, all are capable of inflicting painful bites if threatened. ” It adds they are “excellent climbers,” who “favor moist, densely vegetated areas, where they feast on caterpillars, spiders, insects and tree frogs…” But so far as we can tell, the above snake is another variety of Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake (N. clarkii compressicauda.) *

We also spotted these shy, quick-legged little creatures during our adventure beneath the mangrove’s intricate, close-growing canopy…

Mangrove Tree Crab Aratus pisonii

Mangrove Tree Crab Aratus pisonii

Other factors we considered  before plying a mangrove’s watery corridors?
Tidal flows and mosquitoes!
First the mosquitoes…
Salt Marsh Mosquito photo: Florida Keys Mosquito Control District

Salt Marsh Mosquito
photo: Florida Keys Mosquito Control District

The locals advise if you want to avoid the worst of these “fierce biting bastards,” don’t paddle through a mangrove between April and October. 
As for the tides, make sure you acquaint yourself with a current chart…



Or risk a close-quartered stranding and the possibility of treading on a delicate Mangrove Jelly Fish

 Cassiopea xamachana

Also aptly known as the Upside Down Jelly Fish…

www.tripadvisor.com - 5 Upsidedown Mangrove Jellyfish (Dec 2012).

http://www.tripadvisor.com – 5
Upsidedown Mangrove Jellyfish (Dec 2012).

Paddling and pulling our way through the winding, root-choked corridors of the mangrove labyrinth…



It was easy to imagine we had ventured much further than a half hour’s paddle from the public launch at Marathon’s suburban Sombrero Beach.



A happy hour later… exiting the dense thicket…



brought pelicans…




snowy egrets…


and a magnificent osprey into view.

 As for the mangrove itself…

“Mangrove are trees and shrubs that have adapted to life in a saltwater environment. They stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides.” 



Red Mangrove: Rhizaphora mangle 1796 Plate by Johannes Zorn

“One perceives a forest of jagged, gnarled trees protruding from the surface of the sea, roots anchored in deep, black, foul smelling mud, verdant crowns arching toward a blazing sun…Here is where land and sea intertwine, where the line dividing ocean and continent blurs, in this setting the marine biologist and the forest ecologist both must work at the extreme reaches of their discipline.” — Jessica Hayes-Conroy




“Paddle solo, sleep tandem…”  –Kayak Humor

*All photos taken by Frans Jurgens and yours truly unless otherwise noted.


The Etiquette of Connection




The United States’  Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) includes dolphins among its list of federally protected species. The Act is jointly managed by the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ,the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal  Marine Mammal Commission (MMC).

NOAA in particular publishes a useful “Ocean Etiquette Guide.”




And a no-nonsense NOAA “Fisheries Policy on Human Interactions with Wild Marine Mammals:”


…which apparently, not enough people are aware of or simply don’t respect, as demonstrated in this “ONE WORLD ONE OCEAN” video available on YouTube:

What NOAA does NOT provide is a “permit or other authorization to view or interact with wild marine mammals, except for specific listed purposes such as scientific research.



Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, FL http://www.dolphins.org


Therefore, interacting with wild marine mammals should not be attempted and viewing marine mammals must be conducted in a manner that does not harass the animals.”  

www.noaanews.noass.gov "Please do not feed or harass wild dolphins." July 13, 2000 —NOAA

“Please do not feed or harass wild dolphins.” July 13, 2000 —NOAA


With my recent visit to Marathon Florida’s Dolphin Research Center in mind, I was eager to know if NOAA feels the DRC conducts genuine research.


Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, FL www.dolphins.org

Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, FL http://www.dolphins.org


“Not only is it doing legitimate research, it’s the best facility of its kind in Florida,”  said Billy Causey, director of NOAA’s South East and Gulf of Mexico Region.

“I’ve been been based at  NOAA’s Key West site since 1973 and during that time I’ve seen the DRC grow from the place that trained the original Flipper (of television fame) to  a research, marine mammal rescue and outreach facility.”


Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, FL http://www.dolphins.org


“Yes, the Dolphin Research Center in particular is holding to the protections the marine mammal  act specifies. So long as they hold to those parameters, and continue to combine their research and education components… hopefully they can live up to their mission and goals.”

Causey continued, “Also, the DRC provides a great service to Wounded Warriors who take therapy and comfort during their  dolphin encounters. Physically impaired children and adults take part in their own experiences.”

www.dolphins.org Public Interactive Program: Children and Adults with Special Needs

http://www.dolphins.org Public Interactive Program: Children and Adults with Special Needs

“I’ve witnessed these exchanges,” continued Causey, “and they are as moving as you might imagine.”

Retired soldier Bryan Taylor, who lost a leg in Afghanistan, enjoys a dorsal tow at Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Keys, Fla., on Friday. (Andy Newman/The Associated Press)

Retired soldier Bryan Taylor, who lost a leg in Afghanistan, enjoys a dorsal tow at Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Keys, Fla., on Friday. (Andy Newman/The Associated Press)


And yet, for all the genuine commitment to the dolphins’ welfare I witnessed at the DRC, I can’t help but ask…

Is it right to hold marine mammals in lifelong captivity to assuage the psyches and hurts of humans? Or to conduct research that aims to teach us about another life-form that deserves unconditional respect, no matter it’s “intelligence” or inherent likability … characteristics charmingly demonstrated in this CNN news clip:

During one of the Dolphin Research Center educational film showings, guide Doug Parisi said the DRC’s adult dolphins are unreleasable for various reasons. Several captive-born adults trace their lineage to two of the dolphins featured in the aforementioned Flipper…*

Mitzi the dolphin with co-star Luke Halpin: original 1963 film Wikimedia Commons

Mitzi the dolphin with co-star Luke Halpin: original 1963 film Wikimedia Commons

He said another, Jax, bears  life-long shark attack injuries:

…and yet another DRC dolphin, Louie, is a gulf oil-spill survivor who, like Jax, was rescued as a young calf, and therefore before his mother could impart all those survival skills required to live in the wild.

As at least one person from every group that attends the not-for-profit center’s educational film asks: “Will your dolphins be released back into the wild or can they come and go as they please…” it is helpful to know the DRC publishes its response at its http://www.dolphins.org/ and in its quite informative souvenir brochure, which states: logo


“Most of the dolphins at DRC were born here or came to us from other facilities and have lived most, if not all, of their lives in human care. Others have been taken in as rescued youngsters after they were deemed non-releasable by the federal government.”

Yet, the population of 24 dolphins currently living at the center is regulated and maintained through artificial insemination breeding – meaning more calves are born into captivity and therefore destined  to be unreleasable… thus affording the DRC with a continued population of research subjects.

So, isn’t it fair to ask if research into communication skills, numbers concepts and mind-fullness conducted on captive born animals gives more than a passing insight into the capabilities of wild-born dolphins?

Won’t the results be skewed by constant contact with humans and the unchallenging confines of a lagoon?

Dolphin Research Center Lagoon, photo taken by Felicity... courtesy www.dolphins.org

Dolphin Research Center Lagoon, photo taken by Felicity… courtesy http://www.dolphins.org

And more than that, what’s in it for the dolphins?

The DRC’s assistant director of education, Courtney Coburn, replied, “We do expect our findings to pertain to wild populations who are, after all, still bottlenose dolphins. There are going to be differences to a degree, but the results correspond more frequently than not.”

Coburn bases that statement on the findings the DRC has shared with Dr. Randall Wells, the director of the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population.


Coburn continued, “Studying dolphins in a human care setting makes it possible to observe interactions that remain mostly out of site in the wild, nursing for instance. These are natural behaviors that will occur in both wild and captive populations.”

Advantage: Researcher. What about the dolphins?

“We learn more about their needs,” said Coburn, “enabling us to gain information that’s of benefit to wild dolphins so laws can be created with their interests in mind.. the regulation of fishing and sanctuaries for instance.  We see the benefits of research extending out to the wild. That’s our goal. We’ve made a care commitment to the DRC’s family of dolphins, sea lions, birds, iguanas… but they are ambassadors for their wild counterparts.”

Coburn paused, then added, “We hope our work generates compassion and interest. We hope our visitors leave asking, ‘What can I do to make sure wild dolphins are just as healthy and happy.'”


Which leaves this recent visitor hoping the DRC’s work, and that of the dolphins living their lives at their center, will help all people forge a greater connection to the oceans all species

ultimately rely on.







“In the end, we will Conserve only what we Love we will Love only what we Understand and we will Understand only what we are Taught.” –Baba Dioum Senegal



*Tursiops Truncatus Trivia: “In addition to Mitzi, four other dolphins were filmed for the production of the movie. Two of the dolphins, Little Bit, a female, and Mr. Gipper, a male, reproduced at the Dolphin Research Center. The calf was named Tursi, and she still lives at Dolphin Research Center. Tursi has four offspring also living at Dolphin Research Center: Talon, Pax, Gypsi and Gambit.”


The Sea is not Ours Alone



Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Turisops truncatus) grow seven to thirteen feet long in the wild. They can travel 2,600 miles during seasonal migrations and indeed, except for its polar regions, the whole of the Atlantic comprises their range.

They are social beings, living in pods of two to 20 individuals when closer to shore, sometimes 20 to over 100 when far at sea, where greater numbers afford more protection from predators and the benefits of coordinated, cooperative hunting.


Their family dynamics and friendships are more fluid, more loosely structured than those humans adhere to, with separate maternity and bachelor pods providing the framework individuals connect through across vast leagues of ocean.



Their sociability is not limited to their own species… as ship wreck survivors, lost and injured surfers and even pet dogs…

and cats will attest…

Their brain size is larger than a humans *…



…though that doesn’t necessarily equate to what humans deem a capacity for “intelligence.” The dolphin’s echolocation abilities and the other forms of spatial reasoning required to negotiate an environment as dynamic as the ocean may require that extra acreage, for all we know… for we aren’t as smart as we like to believe.

Because if we were, would we consign the beings described above to the confines of a public aquarium tank, or even the comparatively spacious lagoon-style pens that abound in the Florida Keys?

A DRC Lagoon photo: by felicity courtesy www.dolphins.org

A DRC Lagoon
photo: by felicity
courtesy http://www.dolphins.org


The current largest tank in America, housed at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, contains 1.8 million US gallons (6,800 m3) of “controversial” water.[2] 


images6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Aquarium

The lagoons at Marathon Florida’s Dolphin Research center boast a purported 90,000 square feet of swimming space.

A DRC Lagoon photo: by felicity courtesy www.dolphins.org

A DRC Lagoon
photo: by felicity
courtesy http://www.dolphins.org

That sounds like a lot…except it’s not when you consider dolphin minds and bodies evolved to negotiate an ocean of rich complexities, both dangerous and wonderful.


And that’s a lot to think about as you wade into the Dolphin Encounter Experience at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Florida. It’s what I thought about, even as I stood in line for my ‘dolphin kiss.’

Lining up to interact with a DRC dolphin. photo taken by frans jurgens courtesy www.dolphins.org

Lining up to interact with a DRC dolphin.
photo taken by frans jurgens courtesy http://www.dolphins.org


A kiss on the cheek. Am I a hypocrite?

I’ve been fascinated by dolphins all my life. Even managed to stroke one, once, by permission of a kindly trainer who indulged my obviously genuine curiosity after the official show was over.

But to know what it’s  like to be in the water with a dolphin? To swim with them and engage with them?




I can’t say an orchestrated, clock-work “dolphin emersion” experience offers more than the barest glimpse into the cetacean soul… perhaps more into those of the humans who take part in it? It’s our longing that keeps the dolphins captive.





“Perhaps measuring animal intelligence by comparing it to human intelligence isn’t the best litmus test.”

Ingrid Newkirk


* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetacean_intelligence

T. truncatus has a bigger brain than humans.[16] Numerous investigations of bottlenose dolphin intelligence include tests of mimicry, use of artificial language, object categorization, and self-recognition.[17][18][19][20][21][22] This intelligence has driven considerable interaction with humans.

Dolphin Lagoon and Dolphin Interaction Line-up photos taken by Frans Jurgens at Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Keys, Florida … courtesy: DRC http://www.dolphins.org



Dolphin Encounter




“Look over here, Felicity. Felicity, look at the camera.”

I don’t want to. I don’t want to look away from the dolphin I’m standing toe to tail-fluke with.

“Felicity, over here.”

I exhale and force a smile, turning my face as directed.



“Now reach your hand out, that’s it, cup her beak with your hand and put your face close for a ‘dolphin-kiss,’ that’s it… nice one…” *FLASH*


Well, the Dolphin Research Center trainer, Catherine Dunn, didn’t actually say, “next,” what she said was, “Okay, move back around to the end of the line… Sarah’s next…”



My “Dolphin Encounter” at Marathon Florida’s Dolphin Research Center (DRC) was not quite the exchange I had dreamed of while doodling dolphin drawings in the margins of high-school and college note books, or when memorizing every worthwhile book on cetacean communication and human-dolphin interactions.


There were six of us humans, all women except for two eleven-year-old boys, standing on a submerged dock hung off the side of one of the research center’s training platforms.

Lining up to interact with a DRC dolphin. photo taken by frans jurgens courtesy www.dolphins.org

Lining up to interact with a DRC dolphin.
photo taken by frans jurgens courtesy http://www.dolphins.org


Ms. Dunn, a poised, tanned brunette whose teaching degree shows in her patient but firm coaxing, instructed us “dolphineers” to swim about five feet from the dock and wait for our host dolphin, Tina, to pull along side. We were to then gently grasp her dorsal fin as she “pulled” us around the visitor’s lagoon.


“Wait, what? Already?” I swam forward into the lagoon, and before I realized it a 7-foot dolphin appeared at my side…

“Grab her fin, there’s her fin, take it…”

I hadn’t even had a chance to get used to the colder, deeper water no less process the fact that a dolphin was actually swimming beside me … and someone is shouting at me to grab her dorsal fin? I managed to find the fin in a blur of spray and wavelets and glaring Florida Keys sun.



I tried to register the rubbery slick warmth of an actual dolphin fin in my hand, felt the jerk and power of her muscles … and before I knew it was letting go again as we closed on the platform. The entire “pull” lasted less than a minute and covered no more than a few dozen feet of lagoon.



But my heart was in my mouth for even that brief encounter, my hands reaching for the platform as my feet secured a purchase on the slippery underwater dock.



And so it went for perhaps 40 minutes, tricks interspersed with brief morsels of dolphin lore, a smattering of facts, a few chances to sneak in some quick questions and observations… “How old is her calf, how long will he nurse?”


“He was born this November,” answered  Ms. Dunn. “Dolphins nurse for three to five years, depending on what works for each individual mother and baby; making weaning as varied as it is for humans.”

Meanwhile Tina and her nearly five-foot long calf, Reese, patiently interacted with us awe-struck, excited humans, consenting to our coached requests. Though it was mostly thrilling, a few aspects of the  encounter felt a little corny. I can only imagine  how the dolphins felt.



But this is how the Dolphin Research Center gains the funds vital to its work and the habitats it maintains for the unreleasable dolphins that call its lagoons home.




A topic to be pursued in Aquariverse’s next post.


“People protect what they love.”


*Photos of Felicity swimming and one-on-one with Tina and DRC LAGOON photos by Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida


*All other photos by Frans Jurgens – courtesy

Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida

A Manattee Moment






*(Be sure to visit our most recent post for an update on the mother manatee’s condition … and a few clarifications.)

The sun has only just risen above the Florida Keys. The sluggish waters of the Coconut Cay Canal flow dark murky green, giving no hint of the turquoise gulf waiting just a short kayak paddle away. 




This branch of the canal is narrow, no more than twenty feet wide and lined with a dozen cottagey Coconut Cay Motel rooms along its western flank. A sturdy wooden dock runs the length of the rooms, tropical shrubs and palm trees grow to the edge of the low concrete barrier that forms the canal’s low, eastern wall, sheltering the little motel and its guests, but blocking the view to the Gulf of Mexico.




This setting is usually quiet at sunrise, with just a few of Coconut Cay’s guests casting a fishing line or setting up the gear aboard their dockside boats.  But there’s a different energy this breezy morning.  Half a dozen people are standing in a little knot, murmuring in soft, excited voices and pointing into the canal.




A man with a white buzz-cut and leathery-red face stands at the edge of the dock with a cigarette jutting between the fingers of the hand holding his coffee cup.  His other hand is aiming a camera-phone at the dark water.  “Looks like she’s feeling better this morning,” he murmurs to his sleepy-eyed wife. She steps up to peer round his shoulder. “And the baby’s nursing, look.”


this photo taken from web… topglobus.ur


The husband leans forward, raises his arm slightly and snaps off a photo just as a grey barnacled hump mounds ever so slowly above the surface of the water. A small, dove-grey torpedo with black button eyes and a blunt, pudgy face rises in tandem with the mound, both their shapes now clearly identifying them as a manatee mother and her calf.




“Those white marks on the mom’s back, are those propeller scars?” asks another of the guests, a woman who had only arrived at Coconut Cay the night before.

The man with the camera nods, “Yeah, but those are old ones.” He gestures with his coffee-cup hand, “It’s that big gouge with the pinkish line that’s hurting her. You can see the swelling where it looks infected.





That’s why we called that one eight-hundred number yesterday.” His wife nods at the newcomer. “We seen it posted at the office. 1-888-404-3922 

1 888 404 FWCC (3922)

1 888 404 FWCC (3922)







 “The vet come right out. She pulled her boat right up along side the mother and gave her an antibiotic injection.” Her husband adds with an appreciative tone, “Said she’ll come every day this week and check up on her. The rescue people do everything they can before taking them away for treatment.”


A previous manatee calf rescue: Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, www.dolphins.org

A previous manatee calf rescue:
Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, http://www.dolphins.org


Another Coconut Cay regular added his two-cents: “Because if they do they usually have to take the baby from the mother.”

None of the motel guests could furnish a reason why the pair would be separated but all firmly believed it would happen if a manatee rescue crew decided the wounded mother had to be brought to a care  facility.



A previous manatee calf rescue: Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, www.dolphins.org

A previous manatee calf rescue:
Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida, http://www.dolphins.org



Manatees aren’t dolphins, of course.They belong to the order Sirenia – which includes the dugong and the extinct Steller’s sea cow. And, curiously enough, they are distantly related to the elephant! But no matter their family tree, the DRC is the closest facility equipped with the means to rescue these inoffensive, gentle marine mammals.


This manatee pair hung quietly near the surface of the water, hardly moving beyond the natural flow of the canal’s barely perceptible current or the calf’s infrequent breaths. The calf blew the occasional bubble and sometimes seemed to be checking out the gesticulating, hovering humans.




To a person the guests were rooting for the manatees, trying to convince each other the mom really was showing more energy than the day before, the calf nursing more frequently.  Most saw the mother’s wounds as a sad, too frequent but inevitable collision between human and manatee behaviors and activities.  Others tried not to raise their voices as they brought up the Miami mayor’s recently defeated drive to reduce the manatee’s long-standing protections at the bequest of hard lobbying hotel and fishing industries. 


The manatees like to shelter from the wilder elements of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s man-made and natural harbors and canals. They’ve also become accustomed to the fresh water hose-downs some well-meaning, un-informed people offer in exchange for close-up photos.

Combine this marine mammal’s generally docile, dozy nature with their dull coloring and amorphous shapes and it’s easy to imagine how a boater might start their motor without realizing a manatee is lolling under their vessel.  The likelihood of life-threatening injuries and even fatalities is compounded by boaters who flaunt state mandated no-wake and speed limit signs posted toward the goal of protecting the manatees from full-on collisions.




The man with the camera handed his wife his coffee and cigarette. He crouched at the edge of the dock, holding its edge with his free hand, leaning as far forward as he dared. He wasn’t after a better photo, he was just trying to get as close as he could, as though he wanted to be sure the manatees heard: “You just keep getting better sweetheart. The vet’s coming to check up on you.”





Here follows a video chronicling a separate manatee encounter filmed by a tourism company on a sunny day at Coconut Cay. It’s really trying to promote the motel, but it gives a good view of the canal and a visiting manatee.





All a manatee needs, we have found, is a chance to get out of the way of an oncoming boat. We have scientific proof that manatees can sense a boat and attempt to move away. A fast boat doesn’t give the slow moving animal an opportunity to get out of the way.

Patti Thompson


All Coconut Cay canal photos taken by Felicity unless otherwise noted  — and except for license plate!





Apparently winter does not “exit March the second on the dot.”*

No indeed, this aquarist was not exaggerating when she recently told her Australian gold-fish pond-crafting friend the snow has climbed half way up her bird-feeder pole:


This is no longer amusing:


So, Aquariverse is launching an educational field trip. Sure. That’s what we’ll call it: an educational field trip, a.k.a…



With a whole wide Aquariverse to explore, and destinations limited only by our imagination….

And trust me, Aquariverse’s imagination is unbounded by conventional restrictions on “Time and Relative Dimensions in Space…”


* * *

Why not set off on our adventure from Florida’s Ft. Lauderdale International Airport?



The airport’s Jet Blue terminal features six  200 gallon artificial reef aquariums.

Keeping in mind Aquariverse’s itinerary is not bound to destinations Jet Blue actually flies too…

* * *

Let’s pop on over to Singapore



TIME reporter Erica Ho reported, the “S.E.A. Aquarium in Singapore has laid claim to the throne of the biggest water tank in the world. The aquarium, which opened on November 22 of this year, contains over 800 species of marine animals, swimming in almost 12 million gallons of water. Nearly 100,000 animals are spread across its 10 different zones and 49 habitats. It also houses the world’s largest single viewing panel —  approximately 118 feet wide by 27 feet tall.”

 @ericamhoDec. 05, 2012

Read more: The World’s Largest Aquarium Opens in Singapore | TIME.com http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/12/05/the-worlds-largest-aquarium-opens-in-singapore/#ixzz2vHg8s1q9

* * *

If touring the world’s largest aquarium has left you a bit peckish, consider a nosh in Nashville where the Aquarium Restaurant sets a fun Americana table…



* * *

Want to work off that shake and fried shrimp with a little shopping and exercise? Why not combine the two at the “Mega Shopping and Leisure Center” in Kaunas Lithuania?



* * *

Where next? I don’t know… perhaps Idaho?



The Idaho Aquarium is looking to build an Octopus Palace for its newest resident, a Giant Pacific Octopus. As it says at the organization’s website: “Octopuses are very intelligent animals that can learn to open jars, play with toys, and interact with their handlers…” hence the aquarium’s intention to build a stimulating habitat.

Speaking of habitats… let’s pause to give thought to those fishes holidaying in their homebound aquarium…


This is perhaps the best article I’ve ever read on the subject of keeping your fish safe while enjoying a well-deserved spring break. It especially stresses the difference between prepping the still fragile eco-system of a newly established aquarium and a stable tank that can (with certain measures taken) essentially ‘run on auto-pilot.’


In the meantime, hopefully, winter will abide by King Arthur’s decree and make a graceful exit by the time Aquariverse returns to its native clime…


We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

*Bird Feeder Photos by Felicity