West Indian Manatee

(Trichechus manatus)


West Indian Manatee IUCN VULNERABLE (VU)


Facts about this animal

The West Indian manatee is a large, hairless spindle-shaped aquatic mammal with forelimbs modified to flippers, no free hindlimbs and the rear part of the body in the form of a horizontal paddle. Head-body length of adults ranges from 2.5 to 6 m, body-weight from 300 to 500 kgs.<br><br> The manati's head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. The flippers have large, flat nails on their tips. The dentition of the manatee is very unusual: vestigial incisors and deciduous premolars are lost before adulthood. There are an indefinite number of molars that - like in elephants - erupt in sequence throughout the life of the animal; as the anterior teeth are worn down, they fall out and are replaced by new teeth from behind. Usually there are 6/6 molar-like teeth present at one time.
Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas. Manatees are a migratory species. They are diurnal and noctural, usually solitary but occasionally congregations form in favoured spots and during the mating season.
Manatees are entirely herbivore, browsing on aquatic vegetation. They graze for food along water bottoms and on the surface. and can consume 10-15% of their body weight daily in vegetation. They may rest submerged at the bottom or just below the surface, coming up to breathe on the average of every three to five minutes. 
It is believed the the lifespan of manatees can exceed 60 years. As they have no natural enemies, they can afford to have a very slow <strong>reproductive rate</strong>. Females are not sexually mature until about five years of age, and males are mature at approximately nine years of age. On average, one calf is born every two to five years, and twins are rare. The gestation period is about a year. Mothers nurse their young for one to two years, so a calf may remain dependent on its mother during that time.

Did you know?
that manatees once were thought by sailors to be mermaids, hence the scientific name "Sirenia" for the zoological order unifying manatees and dugongs. The word "Sirenia" came from the word "siren." "Sirens" are legendary Greek sea beauties that lured sailors in to the sea. It is thought that old-time mermaid sightings were actually sirenians rather than mythical half women, half fish.


Name (Scientific) Trichechus manatus
Name (English) West Indian Manatee
Name (French) Lamantin d'Amérique du nord
Name (German) Westindisches Manatee
Name (Spanish) Lamantino norteamericano
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Appendix I and II (populations between Honduras and Panama)



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Range Florida Manatee: Around Florida (Keys) and gulf of Mexico, during hot summers even up to Rhode Island

Antillean Manatee: throughout the Caribbean, along the eastern coast of Central America and the northern coast of South America.
Habitat Shallow coastal areas, shallow rivers, estuaries, and lakes
Wild population Unknown, but decreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 80 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

West Indian Manatee


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 55 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Manatees are of major educational interest, as they are the most aquatic herbivore mammals. They are also good ambassador species for promoting the conservation of estuaries, coastal mangrove swamps, and freshwater habitats.

The West Indian manatee is a endangered species listed in Appendix I of CITES. Zoo associations in two major regions therefore undertake efforts to maintain selfsustaining ex situ populations through coordinated breeding programmes.