|Regional Management Plan for the West Indian Manatee, Trichechus manatus|
|CEP Technical Report No. 35 1995||All CEP Technical Reports|
French Guiana (France)
Puerto Rico (USA)
Trinidad & Tobago
Status and distribution
The scientific information available on amounts and current status of manatees in Colombia is scarse. Previous knowledge and traditional use of the species is suggested by the fact that a town near the Atlantic coast was named 'Manatí'. Manatee habitat in Colombia is characterized by and including areas of swamps, coastal lagoons and creeks and turbid, sluggish rivers with abundant floating meadows (INDERENA 1993 unpbl report). Manatees occur in isolated pockets in major rivers and estuaries away from human presence (Powell and Gicca 1975 unpubl. report, Husar 1977). Their approximate area of distribution includes the Colombian Caribbean (middle and lower Atrato river, lower Sinu river, middle San Jorge river (Ciénaga de Ayapel), lower Cauca river, middle and lower Magdalena river, lower Frio river and some rivers of the eastern plains (middle and lower Meta river, lower Guaviare river, lower Tuparro river, middle Arauca river, middle Orinoco river) (INDERENA 1993 unpbl. report). Individuals inhabit swamps all year round in Ciénaga de Ayapel (middle basin of San Jorge river) (Prieto l988) while in the lower reaches of Sinu river they migrate as food availability varies (INDERENA 1993 unpubl. report). A number of specimens are maintained in large man-made lakes (e.g., Magangue, Bolivar district). At the end of l993 INDERENA started investigations on status, habitat, education, movements and feeding areas in the Colombian Amazone (Montenegro l994), and equally during l994, INDERENA and the Banco de la Republica undertook a study on Cienaga de Paredes (Santander State), to assess its potential as a habitat for the manatee population in this part of the midle Magdalena River (Montenegro, l995).
Major threats and conservation problems
Illegal hunting represents the major threat to manatees in Colombia, followed closely by habitat deterioration. Manatees are killed for their meat by natives and fishermen of coastal and riverine zones (INDERENA 1993 unpbl. report). There have been an estimated 4 annual deaths in the past 5 years but the numbers could be larger if forested areas were considered where its exact distributiton is unknown. (INDERENA 1993 unpbl. report).
Manatee habitat in Colombia is under continuous degradation due to increasing human settlement in coastal areas, transformation of certain areas into agricultural and cattle-raising land, contamination and eutrophication, drainage and rerouting of water bodies and subsequent sedimentation of creeks and rivers, which impairs natural migration of the aquatic species in the area. The construction of dams may considerably affect natural habitats (INDERENA, 1993 Caicedo l993).
Socio-economic significance of the species to local communities
People living under conditions of extreme poverty along rivers or other water bodies often organize manatee hunting parties, after which the animal is slaughtered and sold for cash income (INDERENA 1993 unpbl. report).
National legislation and conservation measures
Manatees in Colombia are protected by Resolucion no. 574 of 1969 by INDERENA (Instituto Nacional de los Recursos Naturales Renovables y del Ambiente), which urges permanently to prohibit poaching on the two manatee species in Colombia, Decreto Ley 2811 of l974, through which the national code on Natural Resources is established, Decreto Reglamentario No. 1608 of 1978 and Ley 84 of 1989 which establishes the status of protection of the species. Colombia is Party to the CITES Convention and regulates the trade of any manatee product under Appendix I of this Convention. However, enforcement of such laws is hampered by the inefficiency of the control and monitoring measures to cover the areas of distribution of the species and by the lack of education of local people. The Colombian government has set aside a number of sanctuaries and parks for the protection of its wildlife, and in a number of them the manatee is being protected. Manatees occur in Salamanca Island National Park, near Barranquilla, and in Parque Nacional Natural de los Katios (Atrato River basin) (INDERENA l993 unpub. report, Caicedo l993). Colombia signed the SPAW Protocol in l990 but it has not yet been ratified.
In 1988 INDERENA launched a protection campaign in the area of Ayapel, Cordoba district (Prieto, l988). Between 1990 and 1992 Corporacion Autonoma Regional de los Valles del Sinu y del San Jorge (CVS), with support from the Caribbean Stranding Network (Puerto Rico), conducted a rehabilitation programme, where two neonates and 4 adults were rescued. Several manatees captured by local people have been placed in artificial lakes where they are maintained in semi-captivity. Two manatees have been born under these conditions (INDERENA 1993 unpbl. report). Previous conservation plans have not had continuity and have not been evaluated. The CVS has proposals in the areas of environmental education, rehabilitation and population monitoring through radiotelemetry, in the state of Cordoba, and INDERENA (since l993 its functions assumed by the Ministry of the Environment), plans to implement several conservation projects in the lower Magdalena and the Colombian Caribbean (INDERENA 1993 unpbl. report). In the past INDERENA has produced educational pamphlets about endangered species, including one on 'manati'. The CVS also developed an educational programme with brochures and posters explaining the importance of conservation of species and inviting all local inhabitants to report the presence of manatee in the area, but discontinued it due to lack of funds and personnel. In l994, a regional plan for the conservation of the manatee was proposed based on the work undertaken in the Cienaga de Paredes, which will be implemented in the areas as resources become available. Since l992, the "Grupo de amigos del manati" has conducted educational campaigns in Magangue (Caicedo l993).
Belize | Colombia | Costa Rica | Cuba | Dominican Republic | French Guiana (France) | Guatemala | Guyana | Haiti | Honduras | Jamaica | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama | Puerto Rico (USA) | Suriname | Trinidad & Tobago | United States | Venezuela
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Preface and Objectives | Summary | I. Introduction | II. National Status | III. Short and Long-term... | IV. References | Appendix I | Appendix II | Appendix III | Table 1 | Manatee Map