The manatee is far from being attractive as sea creatures go, yet it is said by some to have inspired the mythical stories of mermaids amongst sailors. Tragically, the manatee is now one of the most endangered of aquatic animals.

The harmless and gentle manatee has been exploited by man for its meat and hide since the eighteenth century, but thankfully it is now listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union. While it has legal protection in most countries where it lives, this is not always enforced.


Manatees typically breed once every two years, gestation lasts about 12 months, and it takes a further 12 to 18 months to wean the calf. Only a single calf is born at a time and aside from mothers with their young or males following a receptive female, manatees are generally solitary creatures.

Manatee facts

1. The manatee was given its name by Spanish colonists in the West Indies from the words ‘mano’ meaning hand, and ‘tener’ meaning to hold.

2. As members of the Sirenian family – manatees and the related dugong – are the only, mammals that eat sea vegetation. This is why they are known as sea cows. 3.The intestines of a manatee are over 45m long!

4. The manatee’s mouth is extremely sensitive to touch. It uses it for searching for food, and communicating with other manatees. This form of bonding is called mouthing.

5. The Amazonian manatee is able to survive with out eating for up to six months during the dry season, when plants are scarce.

6. Nearly all mammals have seven neck vertebrae. The manatee has only six.

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