Re-post: Ellie, Claire and the manatees

1 02 2013

Originally posted Feb. 9, 2010. I just love this shot of the twins with a manatee and wanted to share again!

Michael and I just got back from Sarasota, Florida, where we had been visiting his parents for a few days. Later this week I’ll be posting some images from our various adventures, including visiting the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on Thursday, a windy walk through Historic Spanish Point on Friday, and showcasing and selling my Polaroid transfer notecards with his mother at an art show in their lovely community on Saturday.

On Sunday I spent a truly blissful day with my friend Camilla and her children—son Nolan and the twins, Ellie and Claire. After breakfast, we headed to the Mote Marine Aquarium and Laboratory. The twins were especially enamored with Hugh and Buffet, two manatees who were born at the Miami Seaquarium and brought to Mote in May 1996 to help teach the public about sea cows. Mote Marine Laboratory is the first facility to have been granted permission from US Fish and Wildlife to conduct basic husbandry training with captive-born manatees.

I’m not sure if the manatee below is Hugh or Buffet, but he was as drawn to the twins as they were to him (he probably thought he was seeing double!). A Mote employee told us that this one had weighed 2,000 pounds, but currently weighs 1800 pounds. The average weight of a manatee is approximately 1,000 pounds, but it can exceed 3,000 pounds. Learn more about manatees on the Mote Aquarium site here.

According to the aquarium’s website, Hugh and Buffet eat about 72 heads of lettuce a day! (Which begs the question—if all they eat is lettuce, how do they pile on all that weight? Are they going heavy on the ranch dressing, shredded cheese and croutons?)

The manatee below would grab a head of lettuce with his tiny flippers and slowly eat it as he sunk to the bottom of the tank (slow food fashion). The other manatee stayed up at the top of the tank, swimming in circles and grabbing chunks as they floated back up (drive-thru fast food style).

Interesting fact: Manatees are not aggressive and they have no social hierarchy. Humans could learn a lesson or two from them, couldn’t we?

Speaking of seeing double, the twins are identical, so it is very difficult for me to tell them apart. I learned that at this point in time, Ellie has all of her front teeth but Claire is missing a few. Unless they smiled and showed me their teeth, I kept calling them by the wrong names all day—despite my internal repetition of this refrain—Ellie Teeth, Claire No Teeth, Ellie Teeth, Claire No Teeth. I took a closeup head shot of them facing the camera and when I showed them the photo on my screen, I asked “which is which?” They both pointed to the face on the right and simultaneously said, “that’s me!” If they can’t tell each other apart, how are we supposed to?!

The Orlando Sentinel reported on manatee deaths in record numbers here. Most of the deaths have been linked to the cold snap that hit the state in early January.

It was a bit chilly that day, so you’ll notice that the twins are wearing coats. What you don’t see are their summer shoes—blue thong sandals and pink Crocs! And speaking of chilly—we left mostly mild and sunny Sarasota yesterday to return to Washington, D.C. and the remnants of the weekend’s blizzard…just in time for another possible snowstorm beginning today and not ending until tomorrow (with a predicted 10-20 inches more of the white stuff). Oh, joy.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

EllieClaireManatee

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3 responses

1 02 2013
Betty Londergan

I am DYING to see a manatee in real life (or an aquarium) and I LOVE this photo!! What a great post — so happy you reposted!!!

2 02 2013
Tom Robinson

Neat capture, here!

3 02 2013
Mary Ellen Ryall

I am only sorry I didn’t cherish the humble and completely calm manatee long ago. The photo shows how friendly and trusting they are. I wouldn’t want to see any of the species hurt. They don’t deserve to be treated in any unkind way. Children in photo show how they and the manatee communicate together.

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