Manatee are majestic animals that populate some of the main coasts of the Southern Hemisphere, and also one of its most important rivers. They are migratory and therefore can be seen on numerous occasions along the coast. However, the habitat of these animals is threatened, so we must invest great efforts in conserving it if we want to save them from extinction.
Manatee are large marine mammals that live in low-lying coastal areas, especially on coral reefs. They are generally solitary, and forage in shallow waters. They are also herbivores, which helps to maintain the balance of vegetation in ecosystems.
Your health is an indicator of marine well-being; In other words, their health suffers greatly when ecosystems are damaged. Manatee also have a long reproductive cycle, mating every 2 years or so and giving rise to a single calf. These factors contribute to its threat of extinction.
Manat species í
- Florida or Caribbean manatee ( Trichechus manatus ): It is distributed throughout the Caribbean and part of the coast of Brazil.
- West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis): can be found in coastal areas from the Senegal River to the Cuaza River in Angola.
- Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inungis): as its name suggests, it lives in the Amazon River. It is the only freshwater siren, and also the smallest.
Differences between manatee and dugong
Manatee can be easily confused with dugongs ( Dugong dugon ) , but here are some tips so that you can differentiate them without problems:
- The dugong has an arched tail similar to that of a dolphin, while that of the manatee is spatula-shaped and flattened.
- The dugong has very characteristic lips that protrude to the sides, so the face is very different.
- The skin of the dugong is softer than that of the manatee.
- Although it is not a visible difference in itself, manatees have a shorter life expectancy than dugongs (approximately 70 to 50 years).
Manatee and dugongs belong to the order Sirenia, that is, they have common ancestors from which they evolved separately and retain many of the same characteristics. Members of the Sirenia order are commonly referred to as ” sea cow .”
Why the manatee is in danger of extinction – causes
Manatees have traditionally been hunted for their fat and meat, although the species has been protected for years, so hunting is not the most pressing factor today. The loss of habitat is the main threat now.
So why is the manatee in danger of extinction ? According to the UN List of Endangered Species, these are some of the causes and threats that threaten manatee populations:
- Commercial and residential development: urban, housing, commercial, industrial, tourism and leisure areas.
- Agriculture and aquaculture: annual and perennial non-woody crops, and marine and freshwater aquaculture.
- Transport and service corridors: these are the lines of ships in these waters.
- Use of biological resources: fishing and collection of aquatic resources.
- Human intrusions and nuisances: leisure or tourist activities.
- Modifications of the natural system: dams and water use and management.
- Invasive species and diseases: there are species that become invasive and, therefore, problematic and, in addition, there are several diseases that affect these animals that have spread more.
- Water pollution: domestic and urban wastewater, industrial and military effluents, agricultural and forestry effluents, excess energy.
- Climate change and extreme conditions: droughts, extreme temperatures, storms and floods.
This sirenian is considered a vulnerable species or even in a state of danger of extinction in several countries and special natural areas . If you want to learn more about it, you can consult these other articles in which this species appears:
- 16 animals in danger of extinction in Colombia .
- 10 animals in danger of extinction in Venezuela .
- Endangered animals in the Amazon .
- 13 animals in danger of extinction in Mexico .
- 20 animals in danger of extinction in Panama .
How to help the manatee
There are several ways in which we can help these majestic animals. On the one hand, some global conservation actions include a systematic monitoring of populations, identification and conservation of specific areas where it inhabits, the breeding and reintroduction of specimens and the establishment of education programs. On the other hand, and although the management of the territory and the industry are always the most important factors for the conservation of the species, we can also carry out individual actions aimed at the protection of the manatee .
Here are some tips you can follow if you want to help manatees :
- Find out, because it is necessary to know the problem to be able to stop it. Check if you live in an area where manatees can live and, if so, when they do (since these animals are migratory).
- We have already seen that the manatee is very susceptible to land management. Your local authorities should provide you with information about management plans for soil, water, etc.
- Once you have this clear, there are many organizations that are dedicated to the conservation of nature. If you have a special interest in manatees, you can even search for captive breeding centers. Remember that there are public and NGO programs, so you should not rule out any option.
- If you cannot find an organization focused exclusively on manatees, it is best to opt for a more general organization. Remember that the greatest threat to manatees is territory, so you don’t necessarily have to touch manatees to conserve them.
- Ask your authorities to focus on nature conservation. Report if you see activities suspected of damaging the manatee’s natural habitat.
- Be aware in your life in general: try to avoid as much as possible the contamination of beaches or coasts and waterways.