Manatee Conservation Program Director, CONAVI/ Fundacion PA.NA.MA
Location: Panama's Caribbean Coast
Research: Conservation of Trichechus manatus manatus in Panama's Caribbean Coast
Species/Topic: Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus)
Abstract: Threatened throughout its range by habitat destruction, accidental deaths and poaching, the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) is listed as vulnerable by IUCN and as threatened with extinction in CITES. Though it has the largest range of all Sirenia, most of its habitat is fragmented; available information for the Central American stock is rather scarce. This research proposal is part of an ongoing three-year study on the status of the Antillean manatee in Panama, an effort to protect the species' habitat. Methods include aerial surveys, GIS, field interview surveys, tagging of individuals and strategic planning. The project will make possible to track the same individuals over many years, conduct health assessments, collect genetic material and monitor reproductive condition and, at the same time, monitor environmental factors in their habitat. Outputs include a database on the species' status in Panama, including numbers, feeding, reproduction areas and usual moving routes and an assessment of the environmental factors that affect the health of individual manatees and how this impacts behaviour and reproduction, helping foster the long-term preservation of these factors. The results will provide reliable data to update regional, country and park management plans and support informed decision making and participation by park management authorities and community-based organizations leading to effective protection of the local stock.