Miami, FL – Co-owner of the Boston Celtics is donating $ 2 million to protect Florida manatees and their habitat after two seasons of record manatee deaths in the state.

The Fox Rock Foundation will donate $ 1 million each to the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Save the Manatee Club, the groups announced Tuesday. The foundation is a family charity run by Celtics co-owner Rob Hale and his wife Karen. The Hale family has a house in Naples.

“Our family feels called to protect manatees not only because they are intelligent, curious creatures, but also because of the critical role they play in aquatic ecosystems,” Karen Hale said in a statement. “We are proud to work with both of these incredible organizations to work tirelessly to protect manatees and improve the health of our oceans and other waterways.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Fund is using the money to expand ongoing projects to restore the overall health of the Indian River Lagoon by transplanting eight acres of vegetation to six locations in the lagoon with promising water quality, a press release said.

The Save the Manatee Club will use the money to fund an indefinite fund by supporting projects to preserve, restore and restore critical manatee habitats for the long and short term, the group said.

Last year, a record 1,100 manatees died mostly from starvation because water pollution from agricultural, septic, urban runoff, and other sources decreased their main winter food source along Florida’s east coast, especially the Indian River Lagoon, which stretches from Cape Canaveral to the south.

So far this year, Florida officials have confirmed more than 500 manatee deaths, up from more than 700 last year at the same time. Both are well above the five-year average of about 350 manatee deaths over this time period.

It is estimated that the wild manatee population is only 7,520 state commission on wildlife.

Manatees are soft round-tailed giants, sometimes known as sea cows, weigh up to 1,200 pounds (550 pounds) and live for about 65 years. Manatees are official marine mammals of Florida and close to elephants.

Officials ask anyone who sees a suffering or dying manatee to call the FWC hotline by phone 888-404-3922.

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