Location: Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida
by Karen Brown
One thing is for sure, The Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park is a great place to spend a day. We went back again because there is always a lot of fun things to do there to learn about manatees.
In the morning we were invited to attend a special children's program about manatees. There were 3 rangers, 3 park volunteers, 14 kids and Wayne and me. We met at the Education Center at the park.
First we watched a video about manatees. We learned about their habitat. (A habitat means the place where an animal finds food, shelter, water, and space.) We also learned about the parts of the manatee's body. We learned that it is OK to swim with them manatees as long as you don't harm them or bother them. And we learned about the dangerous things that can happen to manatees. For example, if a fast-moving boat hits a manatee, the manatee will be hurt and possibly die.
Then we went outside and played a game in the grassy area. Some kids got to be manatees and some kids got to be the dangerous things that can happen to manatees. The manatees tried to get to the food (they were really bottle caps) while the dangerous things tried to tag them. The rangers put circles on the ground and if a manatee was in the circle, that was its habitat, and the dangerous things couldn't tag that manatee. It was fun and there was a lot of running around.
Then Wayne and I had a chance to show the kids why manatees are so fat. You might think it is because of blubber like a whale. But manatees don't have any blubber. So why are they so fat? (If we have been to your school already, then you know why. If we are coming to your school soon, then you will find out.)
One of the student rangers, Ms. Takako Hashimoto, brought a bear collar with a radio transmitter. She also brought a receiver that picks up the signals put out by the radio on the bear collar. She showed us how it works to find bears and explained that they do the same with manatees. Everyone had a chance to listen to the beeps it makes and we tried to find the bear collar, that Takako had hidden, just by listening to the beeps.
The kids also had fun making their own pet manatee. Two other rangers, Ms. Betsy Dearth and Mrs. Christine Burk, helped the kids make them out of a knee-high stocking and stuffing. Everyone really had fun with that and all the manatees turned out so cute!
But the highlight of the day was seeing the manatees at the park. There are 9 female manatees there. You can look at them from a dock that stretches out over the spring. And you can go downstairs under the dock and see them from underwater, through glass windows, of course!
|Manatee Fun Fact:
Here is what the manatees at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park eat every day:
5 pounds of alfalfa hay
2 dozen heads of cabbage
3 boxes of lettuce
1 bag of carrots (given as treats at the ranger talks)
5 pounds of alfalfa hay
5 boxes of lettuce
Extra food: 1/2 box of bananas, peppers, collards, or spinach
In the morning, the volunteers give them elephant chow (like dog chow, but actually made for elephants). The elephant chow has plenty of vitamins and minerals. The manatees love to eat it. They beg for it by sticking their mouths out of the water and smacking their lips!
Here we are with Cara and Christy's mom and some of the kids from our manatee program. (Girl on the left is holding the manatee she made.)
Where are they hiding? (Ranger Takako shows the kids how to locate manatees using a radio tracking collar and a homing antenna. Ranger in the back is holding a manatee radio tracking tag.)
Ranger Betsy talks about the manatees the kids can see from the Fishbowl Underwater Observatory.