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Did you know that Puerto Rico has manatees? Many of the people that visit our store in Puerto Rico are surprised to learn this – but it’s true! About 5 years ago I personally saw a mother with a baby calf in the eastern coastal area, and have heard of other people seeing them too. But, it is a pretty rare sight; and this is why:
The Antillean Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) inhabits the waters surrounding Puerto Rico. However, Puerto Rico’s manatees are rather isolated and secluded and do not have contact with manatee populations found in Florida and other islands. Estimates suggest as few as 250 individual manatees currently live in Puerto Rico. They struggle with such issues as low genetic diversity, habitat loss, harmful chemicals in the water, and motorboat accidents.
The Florida manatee and the Antillean manatee are listed as endangered because the number of mature individuals is also estimated to be fewer than 2,500 overall for each subspecies, and the populations are expected to decline by more than 20 percent over the next two generations, or about 40 years. The massive sea cows are especially vulnerable because they reproduce very slowly, with each generation separated by about 20 years.
The Puerto Rican Manatee Conservation Center has started a campaign to educate residents and travelers alike in manatee conservation.
Currently, the Center houses three rescued manatees: a dwarf-sized manatee named Aramaná; a crippled manatee named Guacara; and a newborn manatee named Maya. Volunteers and visitors can assist in feeding them and learn more about the manatee and their habitat needs.
While the Center has rehabilitated dozens of rescued manatees throughout the years, their efforts have not been without difficulty. You, too, can make a difference by donating even the slightest amount to them via this fundraiser link. For more information on tours, click here.
If you would like to learn more or donate to help preserve Puerto Rico’s manatees, visit the site of Centro de Conservación de Manatíes de Puerto Rico
Some fun Manatee Facts:
- The name manatee comes from the Taíno (a pre-Columbian people of the Caribbean) word manatí, meaning “breast.”
- Manatees are thought to have evolved from four-legged land mammals more than 60 million years ago. Except for the Amazonian manatee, their paddlelike flippers have vestigial toenails — a remnant of the claws they had when they lived on land. The Amazon species name “inunguis” is Latin for “without nails.”
- Manatees’ only teeth are called marching molars. Throughout a manatee’s life, the molars are constantly replaced — an adaption to their diet of abrasive vegetation.
- 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.