South Florida's community has been responsive to the effort to save the gentle marine mammals. In the middle of January, over 500 folks came to an outdoor dinner party to support the cause, at the urging of Miami's newest local marine mammal hero, County Commissioner Pedro Reboredo.
Commissioner Reboredo had the idea of cooking Spain's national dish to lure folks out on a Friday night to meet the manatees and to eat his home cooked paella. A native of Cuba, Commissioner Reboredo is known for his advocacy on behalf of people -- but the Manatee Halfway House is his first foray as a Protector of Endangered Species.
Thanks to the Commissioner's interest, other folks have gotten aboard, and plans to fund a Manatee Safety Awareness Campaign have already begun. International visitors to the city of Miami (whether traveling by land, sea or air) will soon be greeted by 100 billboards promoting The Manatee Halfway House as "Saving Lives for the Future." The donation of advertising space from the world's largest outdoor advertiser, Ackerly Communications, is a gift valued at three quarters of a million dollars.
On top of this, school kids emptied their pockets of change to purchase "I Slow for Manatees" bumper stickers, adults donned silly ties and aprons to volunteer as assistant chefs at the chilly paella party, and a dying man requested memorial contributions to the Manatee Halfway House in place of flowers at his funeral.
And the efforts are ongoing. A local Girl Scout Troop has adopted the project and raised several hundred dollars from cookie sales to assist the blubbery lovable creatures, while the prestigious John Alden Insurance Corporation has made The Manatee Halfway House the beneficiary of all of its International Earth Day activities and is expected to generate $3000 from "Casual Day," a day in which John Alden employees pay $5 for the privilege of going to work in casual dress.
But More help is needed ...
Today, more manatees require rest and treatment than can be accommodated by the four Florida facilities specializing in these efforts. For this reason, efforts will continue to raise money and awareness for the Manatee Halfway House even after the first phase is complete. Ongoing treatment and maintenance will consume some of this revenue, since the average stay of a hospitalized manatee is upwards of $40,000 annually.
A planned second phase of the Manatee Halfway House will feature an expanded underwater viewing area so that manatees can be observed unperturbed. Scientists expect the documentation and observation of manatee behavior patterns to yield valuable information that may be useful in ensuring the creature's long term survival.
A projected third phase calls for the creation of "Manatee Rest Stops" or safe zones in the wild which will offer an opportunity for manatees to seek fresh water, plant life food and refuge from the cold in habitats removed from the dangers imposed by people.
If you want to help and can offer time, money, or energy toward reaching the goals of The Manatee Halfway House Project Team, contact Dr. Fran Bohnsack via e-mail on the Internet: email@example.com
or In Care of The Miami River Marine Group
690 S.W. 1st Court, Miami, FL 33130
Phone: (305) 285-1864
Fax: (305) 285-9371
About the Project Team Players ...
The Miami River Marine Group is a non-profit trade association and private port cooperative representing cargo shippers who serve the Caribbean, Central and South America from the Miami River, a manatee aggregate area. They are the creators and Founders of The Manatee Halfway House Project (They wear white hats).
Dr. Fran Bohnsack is Executive Director of the Miami River Marine Group and a community activist with diverse community interests. She has held leadership roles in business, environmental, human rights, disabled and feminist organizations in Florida, often serving as advocate for under-represented causes and people. She has twice run for public office, serving as the Democratic nominee for the Florida House of Representatives and as President of the Women's Political Caucus (She is unpretentious :-).
Dick Bunnell is a marine contractor and old-time Miamian whose family has been involved with Miami's waterfront since the days of Henry Flagler in the early 1900's. His company, Bunnell Foundation Incorporated, was important to the construction of Miami's internationally known Metrorail Transportation system and the construction of Coconut Grove's famous Dinner Key Marina. Mr. Bunnell is the Project Manager of the Manatee Halfway House and his company will construct the facility. Recently, a newly arrived manatee calf -- little "D.B."-- born of a mother in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium was named after Dick Bunnell (He is a gruff and great guy :-).
Dr. Greg Bossart is an internationally recognized marine mammal expert who oversees the Miami Seaquarium's manatee breeding and research program which is thought to be one of the most successful of its type in the world. Dr. Bossart's success in rehabilitating injured and sick manatees led to an invitation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Persian Gulf, to help teach Gulf nations how to treat animals harmed by the oil spills which occurred there during the war with Iraq in 1991. Dr. Bossart's rescue work extends to Manatees in Guyana as well as Florida, and he has successfully rescued and released beached pilot whales in Key West, Florida. (Dr. Bossart is 110% full time dedicated to marine mammals).
The Honorable Pedro Reboredo, Metro-Dade County Florida Commissioner, was elected to the county commission in 1993 after having served as City Commissioner and Mayor of West Miami since 1982. While serving as Mayor, he planned and helped build the West Miami Community Center, provided services and facilities to assist the physically disabled, founded the West Miami Home Owners association and established a bus service to provide transportation for the elderly. (Unlike other elected officials, Commissioner Reboredo's motives are entirely altruistic :-) .
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