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The adorable West Indian manatee has been a protected species since the early 1970's. They were first protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, and again under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In addition to federal protection, the animals are also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. These laws make it illegal for people to harass, hunt, capture, or kill them, and violations are met with civil or criminal convictions that can include both fines and jail time.
Manatees have no natural predators and it is estimated that they can live up to 60 years in their natural habitat. While a percentage of manatee deaths are due to natural causes, their dwindling populations are largely due to human-related causes, such as collision with watercraft, ingestion of litter and fish hooks, and entanglement in crab trap lines.
After a woman was arrested for riding a manatee, further protections were proposed to protect manatees in Citrus County, Florida. The Tea Party immediately fought back against this tyrannical move, protesting that taking away the "right" to ride a manatee is a move by Big Government to interfere with the lives of citizens.
"We cannot elevate nature above people," explained Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights. If some of these environmental movements had been around in the days of the dinosaurs, we'd be living in Jurassic Park now."
Tea Party spokesman Michael Coffman elaborated, stating, "Riding the manatee stands for liberty and freedom and doing what we want to do without harming anyone else. Today we can’t ride a manatee, tomorrow we won’t be able to open a business.... The purpose of the endangered species act isn’t to protect endangered species, it’s to deny people private property.”
Most thinking people can understand the difference between animal abuse and running a business, but it seems that whatever tea these people are drinking is impairing cognitive function. In short, if you value your intelligence, don't drink the tea.