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'Slow down' on the water, it's Manatee Awareness Month

FWC is reminding people to watch out for migrating manatees this time of the year.

Editor's note: The video above is courtesy of ZooTampa that received an orphaned baby manatee in October.

The weather is getting cooler and manatees are beginning to migrate to warmer waters, making November the perfect month to recognize the gentle giants in the water. 

In case you didn't know, November is Manatee Awareness Month.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is sending out a reminder to people to "slow down and look out for migrating manatees" during this time of the year.

Why right now?

As the temperatures drop and we grab our jackets, manatees naturally migrate to warmer waters around the state, FWC reports. 

SeaWorld Orlando is a proud supporter of the month dedicated to protecting manatees. It's home to one of the largest manatee rescue operations in the world and operates 1 of only 5 critical care facilities in the United States, the company said in a release.

Since 1976, SeaWorld has completed nearly 1,300 rescues, rehabilitation and returns of manatees. The Manatee Rehabilitation area specializes in increasing the survival rate of orphaned, sick and injured manatees. 

Now more than ever, SeaWorld is indebted to protecting manatees because the sea animal is experiencing a record Unusual Mortality Event that could land them back on the endangered species list. The rise in deaths can be largely credited to starvation due to the die-off of seagrass, which makes up a huge portion of a manatee's diet, SeaWorld reports, FWC reports. 

Not only are manatees losing their greens, but they are often killed by boaters and personal watercraft that are unable to see them in waterways. FWC says boat strikes are a major threat to Florida manatees. Cold stress syndrome is another risk factor as it gets colder outside. That's why during cold months there are seasonal manatee zones that require boaters to slow down.

RELATED: Boater rescues drowning manatee near Bradenton

SeaWorld has dedicated more than 16 grants to global manatee causes through the SeaWorld Conservation Fund and partners with academic and research institutions, nonprofits, animal welfare groups and government agencies to forward its conservation efforts. 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is also expanding its efforts in the fight to save manatees.

In September, the rescue and rehabilitation aquarium announced plans to renovate the "Winter Zone" transforming the area into a rehab and release habitat for the sea cows. It's estimated to cost $10 million as the facility adds around 12 more "beds" for manatees in need of further assistance. 

If you ever see a manatee in distress in Florida, call FWC's Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-3922. You can also find a list of ways to help a stranded manatee here.

RELATED: Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center plans to reopen Nov. 1

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