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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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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

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:

Download the Survival Blueprint for this species below. Each survival blueprint is compiled by an EDGE Fellow working on the species with input from collaborators and stakeholders. The Survival Blueprint provides a status review (information on the distribution, protection status, habitat & ecology, threat and stakeholder analysis) and more information on the action programme listed here.

Vision (30-50 years)

Thriving population of Antillean Manatees in Belize.

Goal (5-10 years)

Belize manatee population recovering and estimated at greater than 1,000 individuals.


Increase manatee protected area management in Belize Critical
Design and implement a coordinated public awareness and outreach campaign High
Continued monitoring of manatee population health, movement, behaviour, habitat usage and threats High
Increase law enforcement in manatee high impact areas to reduce manatee stranding incidents Medium
Strengthen the National Manatee Working Group (NMWG) Low

Jamal Galves

  • Project name: Efforts to Safeguard the Antillean Manatees of Belize
  • Project site: Belize city, Belize
  • Active: 2018 - 2020
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