Here are Some Links to Manatee Facts

Click on the Pictures
Manatee Info from SMC
Nature Serve Explorer
Florida Manatees
Trichechus manatus latirostris
Crystal River, Florida is perhaps best known as a tourism destination because of the opportunity to
interact with the Florida Manatee.  Large, docile marine mammals, the manatees are truly a unique
species. They are in theory, protected by various state and federal laws. Both the USFWS (U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service) and FWCC (Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission) issue guidelines for interacting
with manatees which, despite being posted on numerous manatee tour websites, have been widely
ignored by both the operators and participants of those tours as well as by private individuals.  

Since the 2013/2014 season there has been marked change in this behavior.  Some, but still not all,
operators have finally gotten the message and now more practice actual passive observation.  While
behavior has improved the sheer numbers and those skirting the rules still create problems for

For this reason, Aardvark's Florida Kayak Company has chosen to forgo the more lucrative
swim with
the manatee
programs in favor of a more environmentally friendly, passive observation approach.  All
our manatee tours are conducted from kayaks and in strict accordance with the true principles of
ecotourism and the stricter guidelines provided by FWCC
.  That means small groups and a no touch
. We believe that ecotourism has to be an ethic, not just a marketing tool.

Many of the swim with the manatee tour operators claim they are performing a public service by
educating people about manatees and, they generally do a fair job at parroting  the information found
in print and on the web. Where they are lacking is in teaching passive observation and respect for wild
animals. If someone tells you to tickle it under the flipper and rub its belly, look for a better operator
next time.  Check Out the Manatee Manners Video by clicking the link below.. The video emphasizes
passive observation.  If you want to know how well a tour operator treats manatees, ask them this
question: "Can I pet a manatee?" and see how they respond.  Don't necessarily go by what the website
says.  Do your homework.

It is a common argument that swim with the manatee programs don't kill manatees, therefore there is nothing wrong with
swimming with them.  While at Aardvark's, we agree that swimming with the manatees does not in and of itself legally
constitute harassment, there is no data to support the contention that it is not harmful to the animals at a sub-lethal level.  The
constant need for swimmers to touch the animals is what concerns us the most. It generates stress in the animals, and leads
to clear cut harassment. This is what we object to.   What we commonly witness goes well beyond the passive interaction that
is suppose to be the norm.

Another argument is that manatee like to be petted.  Maybe so, but that doesn't mean it is in their best interest.  Wild animals
that acclimate to humans are usually put in harms way.  Most folks (though not all) seem to have come to grips with the fact
that feeding manatees is bad.  It shouldn't be such a stretch to understand that petting, just like feeding is a stimulus that can
cause an unnatural attraction.

Does proper interaction occur? Most certainly, and with a renewed emphasis on enforcement, behavior has improved, but the
petting zoo has persisted. On April 3, 2013 we observed a local family charter put people in the water to swim with a newborn
manatee.  This is clearly against the guidelines and threatens the life of the newborn manatee. A nearby  resident informed us
that swim programs had been harassing the pair all morning. The owner of one of the areas larger dive shop was quoted in a
recent press article as saying she doesn't see a problem and that manatees like to touch and be touched.  That may be true,
but is it the right thing to do?

You Be the Judge and Let Your Conscience be Your Guide
Here are Some Links to Guidelines for Manatee Interaction

Click on the Pictures
Marine Mammal Commission
PDF File
PDF File

Here are a Few Links to Peer Reviewed Studies Involving Human/Manatee Interaction

Managing Endangered Species within the
Use/Preservation Paradox: Understanding and
Defining Harassment of the West Indian Manatee
(Trichechus manatus)

Click Here for PDF


Click Here for PDF

An assessment of the behaviors of overwintering manatees as
influenced by interactions with tourists at two sites in central Florida

Click Here for PDF

Factors Influencing Behavior in a Boating Speed Zone

Click Here for PDF
Join CEO's for Wild Manatees
Keeping the wild in wildlife!
Award Winning Video
We donate 10% of SMC member's tour fees for manatee conservation.

What people fail to hear or acknowledge is that the manatees are not here for
our amusement, rather they are here for their survival.  Petting does not
improve a manatees chances of survival or fill any basic need.  A close
encounter  can truly be a life altering experience.  It can be even more special
knowing that you've done no harm.  

Here's an examination of the Issue by Nat Geo.
Discontinued for the Season