Manatees find allies in coastal Cuban town

Manatees, nicknamed "sea cows," are in a critical situation

LOCATION: Havana, Cuba

so fishermen and residents of the coastal town of Santa Fe, in Havana,

have joined forces to protect them

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) RESIDENT OF COASTAL NEIGHBORHOOD, YANET JORGE DIAZ, SAYING:

"The truth is that no one should harm them, because they don't mess with anyone. They should be looked after, they should be cared for because they really are very beautiful. People think they are ugly but they are very beautiful. They are very kind and very docile. They don't hurt anyone and they are in danger of extinction."

Their slow movements have made them easy prey for illegal fishermen

who sell their meat as a delicacy in the regions where manatees live

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BIOLOGIST AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST, LORENA GONZALEZ, SAYING:

"In Cuba, the main problem we have with these animals is poaching... When you film a positive encounter with this kind of endangered species, there is a better chance that people will not see the manatees as a piece of meat, but as a wonderful animal that needs to be protected, that needs to be cared for. And all the children who are watching these things, learn from a young age to care for nature and to protect endangered animals."

Experts consider manatees to be true jewels of marine biodiversity

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FISHERMAN, CARLOS CASTILLO, SAYING:

"We don't touch them here. Sometimes they stick to the bridge and we pour some water on them, because they drink water. If you give them water, they drink it. And they are harmless. It's not an animal that attracts our attention because it's aggressive. In fact, it's because they're the most beautiful thing you can see. Because of their volume, their size, you know what I mean? This is the reason. No one hurts them here."

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