The Amazonian manatee is the smallest member of the manatee family and can be distinguished by its smoother rubbery skin and lack of vestigial nails on its flippers.
They are one of three species still existing in the genus Trichechus, the only genus in the family Trichechidae. Their closest relative is the dugong.
The Amazonian manatee is the only manatee to occur exclusively in freshwater environments. The species is slow-moving and docile, and is often found feeding at the surface of the lakes and rivers it inhabits. As a result it is relatively easy to hunt, and is threatened as a result of both historical and current hunting for its oil, meat and skin. Manatees are also at risk from pollution, accidental drowning in commercial fishing nets, and the degradation of vegetation by soil erosion resulting from deforestation.
- Order: Sirenia
- Family: Trichechidae
- Population: 8,000-30,000
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 2.5-3m
- Weight: 300-500kg
Found throughout the Amazon River Basin of northern South America, from Marajó Island (Brazil) to the sources of the Amazon Basin River in Columbia, Peru and Ecuador.
Habitat and Ecology
An exclusively freshwater species, the Amazonian manatee favours blackwater lakes, oxbows and lagoons with deep connections to large rivers and abundant aquatic vegetation. The Amazonian manatee is completely aquatic and never leaves the water. A herbivorous species, it feeds on a large variety of aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation such as grasses, water lettuce and water hyacinths. It consumes large quantities of vegetation, equating to 8-15% of its body weight daily. Since much of this food is of relatively low quality, manatees must spend a lot of time eating. They generally feed at the surface, and are thought to be active both night and day.