New manatee and sea turtle decals from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) give people another chance to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon’s arrival on Florida shores and support conservation of these iconic Florida species.
Manatees and sea turtles were among the native wildlife seen by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon and his crew in 1513, when he named the peninsula “La Florida,” land of the flowers. Ponce de Leon also designated a cluster of islands 70 miles west of Key West as Las Tortugas, because of sea turtles nesting there. As with other Florida beaches, the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park still have loggerhead, leatherback, green and hawksbill turtles coming back year after year to lay their eggs.
Today, the manatee is the state’s designated marine mammal and the loggerhead sea turtle is the state’s saltwater reptile.
“The abundance of wildlife that Ponce De Leon and his crew witnessed when arriving on Florida shores 500 years ago still exists today, thanks to people who support conservation of species such as manatees and sea turtles,” said Carol Knox, FWC’s imperiled species section leader.
“People who voluntarily donate $5 for a manatee or sea turtle decal increase the chances that these species will be around another 500 years.”
The latest editions of the manatee and sea turtle decals went on sale July 1. Floridians can donate $5 to receive a decal when they are registering a vehicle or vessel, or renewing a registration, through the mail or in person at county tax collectors’ offices across the state. The sale of decals helps support the FWC’s manatee and sea turtle research, rescue, rehabilitation, management and education efforts.
Manatee and sea turtle decals also can be ordered online at www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/manatee/decals/ or www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/sea-turtles/decals/.
Purchasing the “Save the Manatee” and “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty Florida license plates also supports conservation of these species.
More information on Viva Florida 500 history and events can be found at www.vivaflorida.org/. Information on the history and culture of Dry Tortugas National Park is at www.nps.gov/drto/historyculture/places.htm