The Amazonian manatee, like their “sea cow” cousins worldwide, are in danger of going extinct. These beautiful (in their own way) water mammals are considered intelligent and especially docile. They spend most of their time grazing on aquatic vegetation — they are strictly vegetarian — in the shallow, murky waters of the Amazon basin. The obscured waters shield manatees’ sensitive eyes from the sunlight, but make it difficult for scientists to determine exact population numbers.
However, their numbers do seem to be on the decline, mostly as a result of illegal hunting and habitat deterioration, though the Amazonian manatee has been listed as a vulnerable species for over thirty years. Despite state-sanctioned protections in parts of South America, the underground trade of manatee meat remains active, and lucrative. Many specimens have also been killed after getting entangled in large fishing nets, though it is unclear whether fishermen are netting manatees by accident or not.
The recent droughts in the Amazon have narrowed manatees’ aquatic habitat, forcing them to move to deep-water areas. This makes them even more vulnerable to predation, as hunters will seek out these areas for large concentrations of manatees, though many people work to protect these gentle mammals.
Celebrate Earth Day and donate to protect the many species of mammals, birds, amphibians, and exotic plants that call the Amazon rainforest home.Whizzco