Racers take off and family and friends cheer from the sidelines during the Save the Manatee 5K at Lake St. Clair Metropark last year.

Racers take off and family and friends cheer from the sidelines during the Save the Manatee 5K at Lake St. Clair Metropark last year.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Racing to save manatees

Annual fundraiser set for May 19 at Lake St. Clair Metropark

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 10, 2018

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — According to the Florida-based Save the Manatee Club, West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more.

As with all wild animal populations, a certain percentage of manatee mortality is attributed to natural causes of death such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia and other diseases. However, a high number of additional fatalities are a result of human-related causes.

The organization reports that most human-related manatee fatalities occur from collisions with watercraft. Other causes include being crushed or drowned in canal locks and flood control structures; ingestion of fish hooks, litter and monofilament line; and entanglement in crab trap lines.

Ultimately, loss of habitat is the most serious threat facing manatees in the United States today. There was a minimum population count of 6,131 manatees as of January, according to a recent survey.

In an effort to save the manatee, private donations and fundraisers are vital. One such effort has been ongoing locally for the past 15 years.

Spearheaded by L’Anse Creuse High School biology teacher Lesley Argiri, the Save the Manatee 5K at Lake St. Clair Metropark has played a role in the conservation effort.

This year’s event will be held May 19.

Argiri is directing the race along with her husband, Brian McDonald, who is also a L’Anse Creuse teacher.

The fundraiser includes a 5K, a 2-mile walk and a Mini Manatee Mile, so that people of all ages have the option to run it, walk it, casually jog it or just be there for the fun of it. The 5K attracts more than 1,200 people each year in the physical race, with hundreds more taking part in a virtual run, which drew interest last year from all 50 U.S. states and 13 foreign countries.

“We support Save the Manatee Club’s mission to protect the manatees and the waterways where they live,” Argiri said. “The Michigan race not only educates our community about the plight of the manatee, but many more people are made aware outside of our state and around the world with the addition of the virtual run.”

Anyone can join the race by doing a virtual 5K on a date, time and place that’s convenient. Virtual participants can choose to run, swim, kayak, cycle, stroll along or rollerblade on a course or trail, all in support of manatees.

Participants will receive a race packet with a T-shirt and a race bib, as well as a new finisher medal featuring two manatees. All runners and walkers at the physical 5K are chip timed using the ChronoTrack B-Tag.

There are age group awards for the 5K run, as well as finishing medals for all events. There will also be door prizes, and the event is dog friendly. There is a $10 park entrance fee that is not included in the race entry. After the race, photos are available for all participants.

Save the Manatee Club Manatee Research and Multimedia Specialist Cora Berchem will have an education booth set up where participants can gather information on manatees and even Adopt-a-Manatee.

“It’s amazing to think the 15th annual Save the Manatee 5K race is coming up, all made possible by Lesley and Brian’s tireless, devoted work and support these many years for the club and the manatees,” Save the Manatee Club Executive Director Patrick Rose said. “To date, this special event has raised $175,000 for manatee education and conservation projects.”

For more information or to register, visit savethemanatee5k.com or email Lesley Argiri at largiri1@hotmail.com. Join the club on Facebook to get updates. To learn more about manatees and Save the Manatee Club’s conservation work, visit savethemanatee.org.