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
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.