One of the 3 manatee species in the world, Trichechus inunguis is a river dweller that can reach 2.8 m in length and weigh half a ton. Manatees are found from the mouth of the Amazon River to the upper reaches of the tributaries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru.
Their elongated and flattened rear end, paddle-like fore-limbs and hippo-like snout combine to make this one of the most unusual species in the Amazon.
Amazon manatees are exclusively vegetarian (herbivores), feeding on water lettuce and hyacinth. In the course of a day, they may eat up to 8% of their body weight. They feed mostly during the wet season, when there is plenty of new vegetation, storing the food in their fat reserves.
When the dry season returns, manatees return to the main rivers, where they congregate. During this fasting period, they rely on their stored fat reserves until food becomes available again.
They live in groups of 4 to 8 individuals and are also found alone. Gestation takes approximately 13 months, after which a single calf is born. In captivity, manatees have lived more than 12 years.
The Amazon manatee once had a range throughout the Amazon River Basin
– but because of persistent hunting for its meat and oil, it has become a rare sight.
This species belongs to the order Sirenia, of which only 4 species remain today. The other 3 species are the West Indian manatee
), the West African manatee
), and the dugong
), which inhabits coastal marine areas of the Indian and Pacific Ocean basins.