With an estimated population of 1,000 individuals, Belize boasts the highest density of Antillean manatees in the world. For nearly 20 years, scientists at Sea to Shore Alliance have been studying Belize’s manatees, through a long-term monitoring campaign. While the team estimates that Belize’s manatee population increases each year, threats amplify as well. The sea off the coast of Belize is one of the few places this endangered species can still be seen in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, Belize’s waterways are heavily trafficked and not well-policed. For the slow-moving manatee, watercraft collisions are often inevitable and have emerged as the primary threat to the species in Belize.
The concern for manatee protection goes beyond conservation efforts. Manatees provide essential ecosystem services by cycling and unleashing nutrients in mangrove and seagrass systems. This, in turn, works to enhance fish stocks for local Belizeans, and further, boosts the economy by increasing wildlife ecotourism opportunities.
By highlighting flagship species such as the manatee, Sea to Shore Alliance is able to secure increased protection for the sensitive habitats where these charismatic animals frequent. Keeping coastal regions protected increases the health of coastal communities, encourages responsible tourism and prevents coastline overdevelopment.
Observing these large gray aquatic mammals in their natural habitat and witnessing their natural behaviors is one of the most beautiful experiences one can have of these gentle giants. However, in order to keep them safe, we must all remember our manatee manners. Observe with minimum disturbance, and do not touch, feed or harass the manatees.
DID YOU KNOW:
ALSO KNOWN AS: SEA COWS
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 40 years
They are related to Elephants!
Original Article Written by Jamal Galves
A fisherman’s Tale
Whale Sharks in Belize
Birds in Sight