These gracious, slow moving sea mammals weigh an average of 500 pounds and grow to 3 metres in length. Capable of living in a variety of fresh and salt waters, these herbivores feed on grass and vegetation on the sea floor for 6 hours a day surfacing for air roughly every 3 minutes.[wpvideo VoV37Xt4]
They once roamed in abundance through the Caribbean seas especially amongst the mangrove islands of Belize where storm channels provide surplus sustenance for them to survive. Coastal populations in the Maya and Caribbean area hunted manatees from canoes with harpoons. They provided a significant portion of the protein of the people’s diet and the hide from the manatees could be put to good use in many ways, including making horse whips.
Hunted by sharks, crocodiles, alligators and humans, they are now a declining population. It is estimated there are only 800-1000 Antillean Manatees; the subspecies found in Belize; remaining. Although hunting has declined, the increase of water traffic and coastal development has meant their aquatic habitat is no longer protected.
There are many conservation projects located in Belize looking for volunteers. If you find yourself with a few spare weeks, head to Caye Caulker and help protect this magnificent ancient species.
Check out some of the following links to get involved: