In honour of International Manatee Day, we dedicate our wildlife of the week to the Amazonian manatee. As their population numbers have dramatically reduced through large-scale captures and being illegally hunted for meat consumption, it is important for us to get our message out there before it is too late. We bring you all you need to know about the Amazonian Manatee:

Species: Trichechus inunguis

Class: Mammalia 

IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Diet: Primarily herbivores, they feed on a variety of submerged, emergent, floating, and shoreline vegetation

Size: 2.4 to 4 metres

Behaviour: Gentle and slow-moving, they often rest and feed. Manatees communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement

Distribution: South America, Amazon Basin

Ecosystem: Inhabit environments in lowland tropical areas, where there is a large production of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants; they also favour calm, shallow waters, away from human settlements

5 Fast Facts:

  • The Amazonian manatee is smallest manatee species
  • A group of manatees is called an aggregation, and an aggregation never grows larger than six individuals
  • During mating, a female manatee, which is called a cow, will be followed around by a dozen or more males, which are called bulls
  • Most species of manatees are thought to have evolved from four-legged land mammals more than 60 million years ago, but the Amazonian manatee – who have paddlelike flippers with vestigial toenails – are remnant of the claws they had when they lived on land
  • Manatees have only six neck vertebrae. Most other mammals, including giraffes, have seven. As a result, manatees cannot turn their heads sideways, and must turn their whole body around to look behind them