Manatee Species Overview
There is a debate about there being three or four species of manatees. Since it isn’t known for sure, I think it is only right to touch on all four of them here. The manatee species that have been identified are the Florida Manatee, the West African Manatee, and the Amazonian Manatee. The one that is debated over is the Dwarf Manatee. Some feel they are a separate species while others view them as a smaller version of others out there. Only time will tell what the verdict is on that one.
Probably the most well known group of manatee is the Florida species. People come from all over to watch them during the year. This is also the place where many manatees migrate in the winter months as they have to move to warmer bodies of water. It is important to understand that the term Florida Manatee pertains to those that are there all year as well as many that migrate there.
In recent years there seems to be more of them than before which is a strong indicator that the precautions and the conservation efforts in place really are working. It is also important to note that many refer to these manatees as the West Indian Manatees. The two are one and the same but many people think that they are two different species being talked about.
The West African Manatee continues to decrease in numbers. They are found along Africa in the tropical and sub tropical waters. They tend to be losing their natural habitat due to global warming as well as human interactions. Conservation efforts there aren’t as great as in the USA though and that is a concern.
The Amazonian Manatee are the smallest ones out there. They are only found in freshwater locations. This is where the debate for the Dwarf Manatee comes in. They too are only seen in freshwater. They are extremely small so they are termed dwarf to identify them. Many researchers feel that they are genetically mutated from the Amazonian though and not a distinctly different species.
Regardless of which species a manatee belongs to, they all have certain things in common. They are very gentle creatures as well as very intelligent. They are herbivores and live their entire lives in the water. They must find water that is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer in order to survive.
All species of manatees are mammals because they give live birth to their young as well as nurse them. They are solitary animals that live alone except to care for their young or when they are being courted for mating purposes. It takes about 12 months from conception for a calf to be born.
The fact that there are very few manatees left in the world is important to understand. While exact numbers aren’t know, it is believed they are quite low. Efforts have to continue in order to keep these species of manatees alive. We definitely don’t want to see them become extinct. There is still so much we don’t understand about them though and the challenge is to keep them alive and to also find out all about them.
Luckily, many of the different conservation programs out there have pushed the government into seeing the need to protect them. One area that needs to be enforced though is when people intentionally harm or harass manatees. In Florida such action involves being arrested and fined. Other places are too lenient and the fear or being in trouble isn’t great enough to make such individuals stop their behaviors.