ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the West Indian manatee is now considered "threatened," not "endangered," but it also says the gentle giant could be in danger of extinction in the future without continued protections.
The agency said in a news release Thursday that challenges remain to ensuring the species' long-term future, even though the manatee population has increased over the years. The new status won't diminish existing federal protections and the manatee will continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
There's an estimated population of 6,620 manatees in Florida. That species of manatee is found mostly in the southeastern United States.