|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
Nicaragua has one of the greatest potential manatee habitats in Central America, constituted by coastal lagoons, sluggish rivers and wetland areas, with abundant submergent and floating vegetation and offshore seagrass meadows. Two preliminary aerial surveys of all rivers and lagoons in l90 Km of Miskito coast in northeastern Nicaragua in l992 disclosed a surprisingly large number of manatees, with a total of 71 sightings constituting the highest sighting rate for the Caribbean basin (Carr l993 in ms). Over 90% of the manatees (including 2 calves) were sighted in Bismuna, and Waunta, two of the largest coastal lagoons (Carr l993 in ms). Miskito Indians and the turtle fishermen report that manatees frequent Pearl Lagoon estuary and Pearl Cays (Ryan l990 unpbl. report). Low numbers of manatees may occur at Lake Nicaragua and on the border with Costa Rica, in Rio San Juan (O'Donnell l981).
Major threats and conservation problems
Economic pressures derived from a long civil war are affecting coastal lagoon habitats. In one single coastal lagoon (Wanuta) 9 manatees were slaughtered by a small group of young fishermen in a two-week period in February l992. This incident may have been encouraged by outsiders interest in a video opportunity. The meat was distributed locally and all those who ate it reported becoming ill (Carr l993 in ms). As recent as January l993, the same group of fishermen killed 11 manatees in the same lagoon. No side effects to eating the meat were reported this time (Carr, pers. com).
Silt from inland deforestation and slash-and-burn practices may contaminate coastal areas. Proposals which are not environmentally sound, include toxic waste dumping, gravel mining along the coast, Cuban shrimping and Jamaican trap fishing (Velador spring l993). Gill nets were introduced to Pahara lagoon 10 years ago, but entanglements normally do not occur (Carr l993 in ms).
Socio-economic significance of the species to local communities
Rama Indians inhabit Rama Cay in Bluefields Lagoon, eastern Nicaragua. Manatee is important in Rama culture as a subsistence item and a symbol of social order and Rama themselves; its hunt, butchering, distribution and consumption of the meat by the community involves concepts of social co-operation and solidarity. The word "palpah" means manatee in Rama and Miskito (Loveland 1976). When a Rama boy is about to become a man he must go through the ritual of hunting, speaking to, and killing a manatee.
Interviews with local residents in two villages of Waunta and Pahara lagoons indicated that they have not hunted manatee for the past 2-3 decades, possibly due to low manatee population levels (Carr 1993, in ms). However, the two recent episodes of poaching in l992 and l993 raise the concern that revival of such activities may occur if measures to prevent them are not taken immediately.
National legislation and conservation measures
Legislative Decree 306 of 1956 protects manatees under a general hunting law Ley de Caza (Lefebvre et al. 1989); under that law in 1972 manatees were awarded an indefinite closed season. Protection is further provided under Decreto no. 625 of 1977 which prohibits commercial take or export of wildlife species in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is Party to the CITES Convention since 1977 but has not signed the SPAW Protocol.
The marine reserve Miskito Coast Biological Reserve (Reserva Marina y Costera Cayos Miskitos) created in 1991, in northeastern Nicaragua, and presently being implemented, includes plans for manatee conservation (C. Espinosa 1993 in litt.) through a co-operative agreement between Caribbean Conservation Corporation and MARENA, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Natural Resources.
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