Manatees are large, gentle, slow-moving mammals. They are herbivores and graze on sea grass and algae; for this reason are sometimes called “sea cows”.
Manatees and dugongs are in the Order Sirenia. The West Indian manatee has two subspecies: the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus). West Indian manatees have a geographic range that includes the southeastern United States, the Caribbean and The Bahamas, and coastal regions of eastern Mexico, Central and South America. Although manatees occurred historically in The Bahamas, apparent absence of natural fresh water sources may have limited population growth here.
The major threats to manatee survival are human activities: boat-related injuries and deaths, habitat loss or degradation, and, in some countries, hunting. In The Bahamas, manatees are protected under the Bahamas Marine Mammal Protection Act (2005):
“No person shall take, harass, hunt, kill or attempt to take, harass, hunt, kill any marine mammal within The Bahamas.”
To learn more about manatees visit:
Save the Manatee Club, http://www.savethemanatee.org/
USGS Sirenia Project, http://cars.er.usgs.gov/Manatees/manatees.html