Manatees are known as sea cows. These gentle, sea grass gazing giants inhabit shallow coastal waters, such as saltwater bays, slow-moving rivers, canals and estuaries, mainly off the coast of Florida in the U.S. While manatees have no natural predators, their numbers have diminished recently due to encounters with human technology. There is no shortage of organizations, both public and private, that have stepped up to help save this now-endangered creature. Many jobs are available to those who want the opportunity to work with manatees.
If you want to work with manatees but don't need to get paid for doing so, then consider volunteering. Volunteer opportunities can include working with the animals themselves, such as cleaning enclosures and feeding the animals. It can also consist of working with the public to help spread the word about the manatee's critical situation. If you live in Cincinnati and are a certified diver, you can sign up to be a volunteer diver, which will give you the unique opportunity to swim with these good-natured creatures. While volunteering won't give you a paycheck, it will however offer you the satisfaction of getting to know, and help, manatees.
There are several zoos across the U.S. that have manatee exhibits. Getting a job as a zoo keeper can put you in daily contact with manatees. Daily duties of manatee keepers include feeding, cleaning tanks and monitoring the animals for signs of distress or disease. A zoo keeper may also be required to design, build and repair the manatee exhibit as needed. To qualify for a job as a manatee keeper at a zoo, you will need a background in zoology, with training and education in aquatic mammal ecology being a big plus. Some schools, such as the Moorpark College in California, offer a specialized degree in zoo keeping, which can be a helpful way to break into this competitive field. Previous experience working with manatees could also help land one of these jobs.
Rescue and Rehabilitation
A number of public and privately owned manatee rescue and rehabilitation centers operate in Florida. A job with one of these organizations will require you to get injured manatees from the place they are found to the rescue center. Once in the center, rehabilitation with the manatees will take many forms, from caring for wounds to cleaning enclosures. The type of position you can apply for will depend on your educational and job history. A degree in biology, veterinary science or a related field will be required for most jobs. However, if you have previous experience working with manatees, this may be substituted for the educational requirements.
Aquariums are similar to zoos, except instead of housing mainly land creatures they specialize in aquatic ones. Some aquariums may simply have manatees in their exhibits, while others may actively participate in breeding programs. Working in an aquarium that houses manatees will most likely mean you will be interacting with the public as well as with the animals. Job requirements will vary depending on the position you apply for.
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