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Manatee Alarms

December 2, 2008

A new alarm system could warn manatees away from boats.


Helping manatees get out of the way. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The gentle sea mammals known as manatees get hit by boats so often that they’re identified by their propeller scars. For a long time, people thought that they were too stupid or too slow to get out of the way. But it turns out they just can’t hear the boats coming. But manatees can hear high-pitched sounds. So the research group that did the hearing tests now is now developing an alarm system that targets the manatees’ hearing range. Edmund Gerstein of Florida Atlantic University says it goes on the front of a boat.

EDMUND GERSTEIN (Florida Atlantic University):
So what we’ve done is create a very highly directional device that the animals actually only hear when they’re in the direct path of the boat.

Gerstein says that, in thirty field trials so far, the alarm has warned manatees away from their boat every single time. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.