Title

Status and Recovery of the Antillean Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) in the Alvarado Lagoon System, Veracruz, Mexico

Event Name/Location

Workshop on Conservation of Sirenians in Developing Countries and Indigenous Communities, Cape Town, South Africa, November 27, 2007

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

11-27-2007

Abstract

Since 1999 we have developed a conservation program for the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) in the Alvarado Lagoon System (ALS), in central Veracruz State. We focused on delivering educational courses and workshops to fishers and local communities with the objective of reducing poaching and habitat loss, the principal reasons this species is endangered. Historically, manatees were relatively common in the ALS, but studies in the 1980s documented their extirpation from this region. Nevertheless, recent rescues of three calves (between 2000 and 2004) and the continuous reporting of sightings have reemphasized the ALS as an important manatee area. Manatee and habitat surveys from 2000-2003 along the entire coast of Veracruz corroborated ALS as a critical wetland for the conservation and recovery of the species. Potential manatee habitat comprises 315,000 ha of low human-development areas including coastal lagoons, interior lagoons, estuaries, mangrove wetlands, rivers, and canals. In the ALS manatees are most commonly sighted in the Limon River and adjacent lagoons, and are rarely sighted in the Acula River and adjacent lagoons; the marine zone appears not to be utilized by manatees, except when moving locally between rivers along the coast. We have found that clam divers and river and lagoon fishers possess the greatest knowledge about manatees in the ALS because they are continuously working in manatee habitats. One of our most significant achievements was the designation of the ALS as Ramsar Site No. 1355, encompassing 267,010 ha of wetlands, including critical manatee habitats. With the potential for the release of rehabilitated manatees from the Veracruz Aquarium into the ALS, there is the need for continued educational and informational campaigns to educate the local communities about the need to protect and conserve manatees and their habitats.

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