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Not Enough Money for Bigger Manatee Habitat

WASHINGTON (CN) - The manatee needs protection of a larger area of its range as critical habitat says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the agency does not have the money to make the designation.

The money constraints are the result of higher priority Endangered Species Act listings and designations they agency has already made or that are court-ordered, says the agency.

Fish and Wildlife reached its conclusions after a 12 month review of the status of the manatee's habitat needs and available range. The review began with a petition from the Wildlife Advocacy Project, Save the Manatee Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife, which argued that the original 1976 Critical Habitat Designation was not sufficient to guarantee survival of the manatee.

According to the agency, the loss of warm-water habitats in Florida's is one of the leading threats facing the manatee population as they are a sub-tropical species with little tolerance for the cold. Florida is the northern limit of their winter range.

Last year, Florida set a record for the number of reported manatee deaths with 419. Only about a quarter of the deaths were from boat strikes which are often cited as the number one concern for manatee safety. Biologists have noted an unusually large number of newborn calf deaths and are concerned that insufficient warm water habitat is killing the calves which will have a significant impact on the manatee population as the breeding stock is reduced over time.

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