The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to remove the West Indian manatee from the endangered species list and reclassify it as "threatened" after "significant improvements" in its population and habitat conditions.The portly creatures were among the first species added to the list in 1972. There were only an estimated 1,267 manatees in Florida when the agency began aerial surveys of the population in 1991. Today, there are more than 6,300 in Florida, a 500% increase in the species population in the state, the service said.
"The manatee's recovery is incredibly encouraging and a great testament to the conservation actions of many," Cindy Dohner, the Southeast regional director, said in a news release Thursday. "Today's proposal is not only about recognizing this progress, but it's also about recommitting ourselves to ensuring the manatee's long-term success and recovery."