In addition to the sea turtles, brown pelicans, dolphins, and terns being negatively affected by the recent oil spill, the manatee may also be threatened. As Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf states move to wrestle against the encroaching oil, news reports have begun to pour in about the first wave of habitat destruction to the marshes along the coasts. The first affected animals have in some cases been rehabilitated, and in others, have been found dead. The website, Monga Bay, questions whether manatees could soon face a similar future.
Manatees are almost exclusively herbivores. It is in their quest for sustenance that they may be harmed from the oil spill. They may be hurt if they "ingest oil-damaged sea grass beds and other vegetation." Also, if they were to "come into contact with surface oil, this could irritate their eyes and mucous membranes while clogging the animals’ nostrils."
Manatees are currently classified as vulnerable to extinction by IUCN and endangered by the federal government. Their numbers have shifted drastically over time in both directions, as protection laws, accidents, and nature have affected the mammals in different ways. Manatees are mostly harmed by boaters, often maimed by their propellers. Considered slow and stupid for years, it was not a lack of intelligence that kept them from reacting to an approaching boat. Their boldness is really caused by the fact that they are intelligent, curious creatures and they do not have the ability to hear the motors coming.
via Monga Bay News