In case you were running out of ideas about how to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Feb. 14, here’s one you probably haven’t considered yet: Adopt a manatee.
The large, slow-moving aquatic mammals aren’t your typical Valentine. Adults are usually about ten feet long and weigh in at about 1,000 pounds. But they do have lots of personality, once you get beyond the face whiskers.
Jimmy Buffett, who knows about these things, recognized the manatees’ appeal when he helped start the Adopt a Manatee program in 1984. It’s part of the Save the Manatee Club.
Now, adoptions start at $25 and include a picture and a bio of your manatee, a handbook and a subscription to the club’s newsletters. As a Valentine’s promotion, for $35 you also get a heart-shaped hand warmer; order by Feb. 1 to make sure it arrives by the 14th.
Marine mammal researchers choose the manatees for adoption candidates, usually by identifying scars on their body. “Sadly, most living adult manatees bear some sort of scar from a boat strike or other injury,” says Patrick Rose, executive director of the club. About 130 Florida manatees died after being hit by boats last year, the club says.
Some of the first adoptees are still sighted at Blue Springs State Park (between Daytona Beach and Sanford), including Brutus, identified in 1970, and Lily, the mother of at least 11 calves. Manatees have a history of returning to the same warm-water habitat each winter, so researchers can make regular sightings.
Manatees spend many hours a day eating marine plants or seagrass, and then they like to rest just under the surface or on the bottom. When they move, they swim at just 3 to 4 mph, although they can hit a top speed of 15 to 20 mph in very short spurts. They can live for 65 years or so.
Read more or sign up for the Valentine’s Day adoption here: