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Term Manatee
Definition

Herbivorous marine mammal of the Trichechidae family, represented by three existing species in the Sirenia order: the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) and the Caribbean manatee (Trichechus mantus). All three species are vulnerable to extinction because their populations have been decimated by hunting, accidental deaths and the degradation and loss of their habitats.

The manatee is a large, friendly and peaceful animal that lives in protected coastal zones, such as bays and estuaries, and sometimes travels upstream in rivers, feeding on aquatic plants such as water lilies, manatee grass (Syringodium spp.), turtle grass (Thalassia spp.) and mangrove leaves. An adult can measure between three and four meters and can weigh up to 1, 300 pounds. It has a paddle-shaped tail for swimming, and two side fins that it uses to bring food to its mouth. It is also known as a sea cow due to its grass-eating habits.

The Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) is considered a subspecies of the Caribbean manatee. Its habitats are warm coastal waters from the Bahamas to Brazil, including the Caribbean islands, Central America and the countries in the Northern part of South America. Its current population is estimated at less than 2,500 adult individuals, and if effective conservation actions are not implemented, a considerable reduction is foreseen over the next few years due to anthropogenic threats.1

A population of at least nine individual Antillean manatees has been confirmed in the Dominican Republic. They have been sighted in nine coastal marine areas around the country including: the marine mammal sanctuary in Estero Hondo in the Northwest part of the country, Puerto Plata, the sanctuary on the La Plata and La Navidad banks in the Northeast, Estillero Bay in the Samaná peninsula, Bávaro on the East coast, the National Park of the East and Barahona and Jaragua National Parks on the Southwest coast.2

Although the country has protected manatees since 1938 through the Fishing Law and many other national and international laws, a national plan for conservation and recovery of the species still does not exist. Various scientific investigations have taken place, the most recent of which was produced in 2006 by the Dominican Foundation for Marine Studies (FUNDEMAR) and the Center for Marine Biology Investigation (CIBIMA). However, the lack of funds, experts and trained professionals, has made it difficult to collect data, so there is still a vacuum in the information about the country’s actual population, activity centers and travel routes.2

See ecological niche

1Self-Sullivan, C. & Mignucci-Giannoni, A. Trichechus manatus ssp. Manatus [en linea], 2008; IUCN 2010, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2010.4.http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: March 25, 2011).

2 Domínguez, H.D. Situación Actual del manatí Antillano (Trichechus manatus manatus) en la Republica Dominicana, Encuentro Nacional sobre Mamíferos Marinos, Santo Domingo, FUNGLODE, 29 junio, 2009.

 
 

Additional Information
PhotoManatee
Topic  BiodiversityResources coastal / marine