Disney World Manatees
Location: EPCOT Center, Walt Disney World
by Wayne Brown
Today we are at EPCOT Center, in Walt Disney World! I bet you thought we were here to study manatees. Are we taking a day off or what?
OK. Let's say you've told your parents you want to go to Florida to see manatees, but your parents want to go to Florida to see Disney World! No problem. You can keep your parents happy and you can see manatees. That's right! There are manatees right here at Disney World and if you come in the summer time when manatees are usually gone from Crystal River, they will still be here to see at Disney World. The only thing is, you can't swim with them and scratch their bellies like you can at Crystal River.
10 AM -To find out about the manatees here at Disney World we met with the Marine Mammal Manager for The Living Seas at EPCOT Center, Mr. Conrad Litz. Conrad was nice enough to take time from his busy schedule to take us behind-the-scenes for a look at how they care for the two manatees they have on exhibit here. The Living Seas is a secondary care center for manatees. Manatees that have been rescued, but are not ready to live on their own, or will never be able to live on their own in the wild, need a place to live. (Kind of a rest home for manatees.) The Living Seas takes and cares for these manatees. It is Conrad's job to make sure the manatees are well taken care of.
The habitat for the two manatees here used to be home for sea lions. The problem was that sea lions are noisy and smelly. The exhibit area is not outside, but inside, so the place was always loud and smelly. The manatees took the place of the sea lions and they are popular with the guests and especially the people that work here. The manatees are quiet and are not smelly at all!
There are two manatees here, Gene and Hurricane. The manatees are both males about 10 1/2 feet long. Gene weighs about 1,700 pounds. Hurricane weighs about 1,800 pounds. These manatees are about to take a trip sometime soon. These manatees will be moving to a new home in Ohio at the Cincinnati Zoo. (Remember on Day 6 we met some people from the Cincinatti Zoo who were going to get manatees at their zoo? Well, these are the manatees they are going to be getting.) After these manatees leave, Conrad will be getting some other manatees that need a place to stay. Normally the manatees were only allowed in parks and aquariums in Florida, but (as I mentioned on Day 4) as more manatees are rescued many of them have to be cared for and space is running out. More manatees are being rescued and the manatees in the primary care centers have to be moved out to make room for manatees. At first biologists wanted to leave the manatees in Florida, but with space running out they must be moved to places that have room for manatees, even outside of Florida.
I mentioned to Conrad about my encounter, on Day 7, with the male manatee that bumped me to get me away from the female manatee. I said I thought that was unusual since manatees are usually so gentle. Mr. Litz said that agressive encounters between male manatees have been seen before. At the Lowry Park Zoo, in Tampa, a younger male manatee was put into a tank with two other older adult male manatees. The adults in the tank repeatedly slammed the younger male into the side of the tank. It seemed like the older males were trying to show the younger one that they were in charge. A social dominance, where an older male is the one in control, is often seen many animal species.
After showing us all around The Living Seas and telling us all about his manatees, it was time for Conrad to return to his work. It was lunch time and Conrad had given us a pass that gave us admission to all the Disney World parks...So, in the interest of scientitic inquiry, we find out if we could see all the Disney World parks in half a day. Could it be done?
After leaving Conrad, we dropped off all our stuff in a locker and went to walk through Future World, of which The Living Seas is part. We went to The Living Body and rode on Body Wars. This is like Stars Wars, at Disneyland, inside the human body. Our next stop was Test Track. This brand new ride will open on March 17th. We went to Test Track and were told that if we came back after 2 PM we might be able to get a sneak peek before the ride officially opens.
We left Test Track and started our whirlwind world tour. In World Showcase we walked through Mexico, then stopped by Norway to ride through time on an old Viking ship. We left Norway, walked through China, Germany, and Italy, then stopped in the United States to see The American Experience show about the history of the United States. After that we walked through Japan and stopped in Morroco for lunch. After lunch we walked through France, England and Canada, then back to Test Track. We stood in line for about 30 minutes when the ride broke down and they said it would be a least an hour before it was working again. We had no time to waste, so we left and hopped on a bus to the brand new Animal Kingdom. We went on three ride there, It Tough to Be a Bug show, Countdown to Extinction, and the Jungle Safari. The Jungle Safari was like the San Diego Wild Animal Park tram ride. On this ride we were surprised to see one of the manatees' closest land relatives -- the elephant. (Manatees and elephants both have toe nails, gray wrinkly skin, tiny eyes, and flat grinding teeth.) The Countdown to Extinction was like Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride meets the dinosaurs. Our favorite attraction was It's Tough to Be a Bug. This show has all the characters from the movie, A Bug's Life. The show takes place underground where you get gassed by a stink bug, squirted with acid by a termite, sting by hornets, attacked by black widow spiders, and feel cockroaches and maggots crawl across your rear end!
Our next stop was the Magic Kingdom, like Disneyland, only bigger. We got there just before the park closed and rode on Alien Encounter, where you get attacked by a giant people eating alien. We finally returned to EPCOT and tried Test Track one more time and got to ride it! This was our favorite ride of the day. It goes longer and faster (over 60 mph! ) than any ride Disney has anywhere! You ride in test cars and get to be a test dummy... They even put you through a crash test! Well, EPCOT had closed and we were not able to see all the parks, we missed MGM/Disney Studios. Now it was time to return to Crystal River and get ready for tomorrow, because tomorrow we have a big surprise planned for you!...See you then!
We are standing under Spaceship Earth at EPCOT Center, Walt Disney World!
Here we are with Conrad in front of his office - The Living Seas at EPCOT Center.
Conrad is showing us behind-the-scenes at the manatee exhibit.
Disney's Animal Kingdom. Karen is standing in front of the gigantic Tree of Life. This tree is so big that the waiting area and theater for "It's Tough to Be a Bug", is inside this tree!
Time: 10:00 AM
Distance from Crystal River: 80 miles
Magellan GPS Location:
28º 53 minutes 05 seconds North latitude
82º 35 min. 54 sec. West longitude
Morning Air Temp: 65ºF
Afternoon Air Temp: 78ºF
Weather: light breeze, overcast, mid-afternoon rain shower
Miles traveled by kayak so far:
Total manatees seen so far: 56
PHOTOS TAKEN SO FAR
(Above water): 153
(Above water): 670
Rolls of film shot
(36 exposures): 24 rolls