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90. West African Manatee

Trichechus senegalensis


The African manatee is the least well-known of the three manatee species in genus Trichechus.

There are only four species in the order Sirenia still existing, with the only non-manatee member being the dugong in a separate family Dugongidae. The African manatee is thought to be similar in appearance and behaviour to the better known American manatee. Like its relatives, this gentle manatee is threatened with extinction as a result of human activities. The principle threat is incidental catch in fishing equipment, although the species is also hunted in some regions either because it is considered a pest or for its meat and body parts. Habitat loss and degradation caused by the destruction of mangroves and damming of waterways is also a threat. Fewer than 15,000 individuals are thought to survive, with some populations already thought to have been driven to the brink of extinction as a result of these threats.

  • Order: Sirenia
  • Family: Trichechidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: unknown
  • Size: 3-4m
  • Weight: <500kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.15 (?)
ED Score: 42.2 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


The West African manatee is found extensively along the west African coastline in a number of countries including Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

Habitat and Ecology

The West African manatee inhabits salt, brackish and freshwater in a number of habitats such as marine coastal areas, lagoons, estuaries and river tributaries. They show a preference for mangrove habitats and calm water conditions, restricted to water that is 18°C and over. Feeding and moving mostly during the night. Their diet consists mainly of aquatic vegetation from overhanging bank growth, mangroves or submerged aquatic plants. In some regions the West African Manatee are reported to eat fish from nets and rice from fields; bringing them into conflict with the local human population. In island regions the West African manatee is usually found as solitary individuals or as small family groups but groups of up to 15 individuals have been sighted. Breeding is thought to occur year round and adult females will give birth to live young which can be up to 1m in length.

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Loading species distribution map...

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Urban development Industrial development Tourism Habitat change Droughts Extreme temperatures Extreme weather Crops Aquaculture Fossil fuel Utility lines Shipping Logging Fishing Recreation Wars Work Dams Ecosystem changes Wastewater Industry Agriculture Agriculture Garbage Energy

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at:

Paul Rodrigue Ngafack

  • Project name: Assessing the distribution and threats on the West African manatee in Cameroon
  • Project site: Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve, Cameroon
  • Active: 2014 - 2017
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