Manatee, a Threatened Specie and Protected in Sian Ka’an

I have been thinking to write about the numerous species that inhabit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and I think a nice introduction to this theme would make the magnificent Manatee!!!

  • Manatees are mamals and the largest vegetarian creatures that live in the sea.
  • Manatees inhabit the shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, West Indian Manatee), the Amazon Basin ( Amazonian Manatee), and West Africa ( West African Manatee)
  • Manatees are one of the few aquatic animals that can happily move between fresh and salt water but they depend on fresh water to drink. That is the reason we find Manatees in Sian Ka’an, as there we find brakish water in the laggoons, but also there is fresh water supply from the various waterholes (Cenotes) coming up within a brakish water lagoon.
  • Manatees have no natural enemies (with exception of the human) they have evolved no defense mechanism, even when breeding.
  • Manatees have good hearing and communicate with other manatees through high pitched sounds but until today it is a mistery how they make these sounds as they do not emanate from mouth, throat or lips.
  • Manatees cannot survive below 15°C ( 60°F), because their low metabolic rate does not protect them in cold water. Prolonged exposure to water temperatures below 68 °F (20 °C) can bring about “cold stress syndrome” and death.
  • Half a manatee’s day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest grazing in shallow waters at depths of 1–2 metres
  • Manatees can reach an age of 60 years.
  • On average, manatees swim at about 5 to 8 kilometres per hour (3.1 to 5.0 mph). However, they have been known to swim at up to 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph) in short bursts.
  • Manatees typically breed once every two yearsm, gestation lasts about 12 months, and it takes a further 12 to 18 months to wean the calf.
  • Human activity represents an existential threat to all three manatee species.
  • In Florida the manatee is facing serious difficulties; their slow-moving, curious nature, coupled with dense coastal development, has led to many violent collisions with propellers from fast moving recreational motor boats, leading frequently to maiming, disfigurement, and even death.
  • Florida manatee deaths caused by humans have increased through the years, and now typically account for 20%-40% of recorded deaths.
  • Hurricanes, cold stress, red tide poisoning and a variety of other maladies threaten manatees, but by far their greatest danger is from watercraft strikes, which account for about a quarter of Florida manatee deaths.

Here in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, until around the end 1960, Manatees were hunted by local fishermen, thankfully not on a large scale basis. This was at a time before the area was declared a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by the UNESCO,

However, there live a small number of  Manatees in the laggoons of the Boca Paila Area. Some reserach says, there are less than 20 animals left in the Boca Paila lagoon area. In the Ascension Bay Area and further south, we do not actually know how large the number of Manatees is, but we estimate that there is a larger population.

Now they face strong protection and no threat. The only threat they are facing is by speedy motorboats, not respecting the park regulations. Fortunately there are not many motor boats allowed in the Biosphere Reserve. And thankfully, most are respecting to carefully speed down, when reaching the area where the Manatees are expected. The Manatees in the area of Boca Paila lagoon are a big eco tourism attraction. Part of our Nature Cruise Tour is to visit the area where we find the Manatees and where they come up to breath. The visitors are very thrilled for an close encounter with these gentle giants. Manatees are an endangered specie and we are very passionate about educating about their plight.

Here are a few Manatee Protection Tips:

We are concerned about people interacting with manatees which include:

  • touching manatees
  • riding manatees
  • poking manatees
  • feeding manatees or giving them water
  • any actions that might separate a mother and calf
  • chasing manatees
  • surrounding them

On our Nature Tours in Sian Ka’an we offer the opportunity to get close to these magnificent creatures without disturbing them at any point. We try to be the silent observer who apreciates nature as it is.  We provide our clients with a knowledgeable and informative tour and just seeing these giant animals in their native habitat gives an additional thrill. We are passionate about what we are doing, getting close to nature and giving this same opportunity to people who wish to experience an outstanding place of the world, World Heritage Site Sian Ka’an.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *