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90. West Indian Manatee

Trichechus manatus


The Sirenians (manatees and dugongs) are more closely related to elephants than to other marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.

The only surviving members of this order today are the three species of manatee (West Indian, African and Amazonian) and the dugong. The West Indian manatee feeds primarily on sea grass, spending hours at a time grazing. Individuals require freshwater for drinking and so are often found in areas such as creeks and canals where fresh water is available.

The greatest threat to the West Indian manatee in Florida is collisions with watercraft such as boats and jet skis which happen frequently in the densely populated coastal regions and accounts for 35% of known causes of death. Other threats to this gentle, slow moving animal include human disturbance, accidental mortality in flood control structures or fishing equipment and habitat degradation.

  • Order: Sirenia
  • Family: Trichechidae
  • Population: <2,500
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 3-4 m
  • 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


Florida manatees (T. m. latirostris) are found only in the United States, although a few have been known to migrate as far as the Bahamas. The Antillean, or Caribbean, Manatee (T. m. manatus) inhabits riverine and coastal systems in the tropical and subtropical areas from the Bahamas to Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Habitat and Ecology

They are found in shallow rivers, canals, saltwater bays, estuaries, lagoons and coastal areas. Because they lack a thick layer of insulating body fat and have an extremely low metabolic rate, they prefer to stay in water that is more than 20°C but can endure temperatures as low as 13.5°C. Manatees require fresh water for drinking and so will be found in areas such as creeks where freshwater is available. Sea grass is their primary food source and adults may spend hours grazing at a time.

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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 Droughts Extreme temperatures Extreme weather Crops Aquaculture Shipping Fishing Fishing Recreation Dams Ecosystem changes Native species Wastewater Industry Agriculture 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:

Jamal Galves

  • Project name: Efforts to Safeguard the Antillean Manatees of Belize
  • Project site: Belize city, Belize
  • Active: 2018 - ongoing
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