Columns, Opinion

WEIL: RIP, Dennis

Amidst all the political chaos and economic frenzy, a mixed-up youth landed himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This little guy’s name was Dennis, and he was a manatee.
Dennis was a Floridian, and the pre-election swing-state political bombardment must have disenchanted the poor fellow. So he found his way up to the chilly, true-blue waters of Cape Cod, surprising the coastal town of Dennis – thus, the clever naming of the sea cow – upon landing in Sesuit Harbor. Dennis’s arrival was not the first sighting of a manatee in the north, and he is part of a growing trend of animals gone astray, out of their appropriate climates.
Manatees thrive in the warm coastal waters of the Caribbean, Amazon and West Africa. The population is decreasing, and the animal is listed under the Endangered Species Act. The main threat to the manatee is injuries from boat collisions and other human interaction.
Poor Dennis sustained body temperatures 24 degrees colder than his species is normally used to near the Cape, causing him what officials call, ‘cold stress,’ which brought him to his tragic end. Crews from the International Fund for Animal Welfare captured the 800 pound youth in a donated net while hundreds of Cape Codders looked on. The crew then assisted the manatee’s recovery while transporting him to Florida in a refrigerated truck. Despite the good citizens’ efforts, global warming claimed another non-human victim.
Ideally, the crew should have waited until the manatee regained its normal temperature before beginning the 27-hour journey down south. But members of the community did what they thought was best, using goods and energy donated from many different community members.
In the recent push to ‘go green,’ animal protection is often overshadowed by broader energy, consumption and population concerns. Most NGOs and governmental initiatives are all about tackling the large-scale issues that apply to the general public, and this is what the media addresses.
Dennis’s plight reminds us of the importance of community efforts and the need for a multi-leveled approach to dealing with global climate change. Animals removed from their normal migration routes will increase with the changed temperature patterns associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions. No singular policy can adequately address each of these misplaced animals, and local level organization is needed to provide specialized support for the wandering critters.
At the same time, scientists need to work with communities to confront these issues to ensure a higher rate of survival. The groups most likely to do so are typically non-profits with little funding. Government groups pitch in, but the communities are the ones that ultimately front the costs. The government should be more involved, both by providing adequate funds for research and implementing effective climate change programs. In the meantime, let’s hear it for community efforts and sea cows on the front page of The Boston Globe Oct. 12.
So bless your blubbery soul, Dennis. Your spirit lives on in the fight for more involvement in climate change.

Website | More Articles

This is an account occasionally used by the Daily Free Press editors to post archived posts from previous iterations of the site or otherwise for special circumstance publications. See authorship info on the byline at the top of the page.

Comments are closed.