The West Indian Manatee found in the waters of the Caribbean near the Costa Rican coastline is different from the subspecies found in the waters around Florida.
Manatees can be observed in rivers and close to the shore in the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Amazon River network and rivers around West Africa. Its habitats consist of the pelagic zone of the ocean in waters close to shorelines, brackish and freshwater rivers. In Costa Rica, it can be found near Tortuguero National Park, Cahuita National Park and Manzanillo-Gandoca National Wildlife Refuge.
Mating & Reproduction
Manatees are closely related to elephants, and in this way they have maintained a similar approach to mating. When a female comes into estrous (heat), she exudes a chemical pheromone. This attracts other males. Also similar to elephant behavior, manatees form long mating herds that are most likely made based on the pheromones they release.
Females reach sexual maturity by four years old, but often don´t produce young until they are seven. A single female will produce one calf after 12 to 14 months of gestation. The father doesn’t take part in raising the young, and the calf stays with its mother for up to two months. Female manatees may produce 5 to 7 young in their lifetime which usually spans 25 years or more.
Manatees are mostly herbivores, but they occasionally eat small fish and small invertebrates such as crabs or shrimps. Their diet mostly consists of sea grasses, kelp and other aquatic plants that they forage for near the shore or in freshwater estuaries. Humans are the biggest threat to Manatees, because natural predators such as orcas or sharks seldom venture close enough to shore to catch manatees.
Manatees are an endangered species in many areas of their known range. They were hunted to abysmally low levels in the waters near Tortuguero National Park up until the 1970s. Their numbers are beginning to rebound slightly, and certain initiatives have been undertaken by wildlife advocates that are as young as two elementary school students from the Barrio Límoncito school system to college professors and local authorities.
Locations in Costa Rica: Tortuguero National Park, Cahuita National Park, Manzanillo-Gandoca National Wildlife Refuge,
Diet: aquatic plants, sea grasses, small fish, small invertebrates
Habitat: Pelagic Zone of the Ocean, Coastal Waters, Brackish and Freshwater Rivers
Size: length=8-13 ft. weight=440 to 1,300 lbs.
Species: Trichechus manatus