|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
Although no systematic surveys have been conducted, it is believed that manatee populations have decreased in Panama (Mou Sue et al. 1990). Panama has the longest Caribbean coastline in Central America but suitable habitat is limited. The total number of manatees in the country may be as low as 42 to 72 (Mou Sue et al. 1990). Resident manatee populations in Panama seem restricted to two main areas (Mou Sue et al. 1990): Bocas del Toro Province (specifically Changuinola and Chiriqui Grande areas) and in the Panama Canal system (including Gatún Lake and associated rivers). In the area of Changuinola manatees occur mainly in three sites: (a) Rio San San, especially in its lower reaches, away from human populations and boat traffic; (b) Lagunas de Changuinola, originated from the rerouting of Rio Changuinola by United Fruit Company to use lowlands for banana plantations; (c) Ensenada de Soropta (10 km northwest of the mouth of Rio Changuinola) with seagrass meadows and coral reef protection (Mou Sue et al. 1990). In the Chiriqui Grande area manatees have been sighted in Rio Mananti, a slow-moving river rich in Panicum sp. meadows which owes its name to manatees, and Rio Caña, including Lagunas Jugli and Damani (Mou Sue et al. 1990). Small numbers of manatees occur in the Gatún Lake area and Panama Canal (Montgomery et al. 1982, Mou Sue et al. 1990) derived at least partially to a translocation project in the early 60's (MacLaren 1967). Muizon and Domning (1985) speculate that manatees have reached the Pacific coast through the Canal. Occasional sightings occur in Veraguas and Colon (Mou Sue et al. 1990). Rio San San, and most specifically the La Olla lagoon, yielded the most consistent manatee observations during aerial surveys of separate river systems with emphasis in Bocas del Toro area. The high proportion of calves observed (15.7%), most of them in rio San San, indicates that reproduction is occurring in the area (Mou Sue et al. 1990).
Major threats and conservation problems
Although reduced in recent years, illegal hunting still highly threatens the small population of manatees in Panama, with poaching reported in Rio San San, Rio Sixaola and probably Rio Changuinola and surroundings, and occasional clandestine sale of manatee meat (Mou Sue et al. 1990).
Habitat degradation by economic activities may soon become the most serious pressure on manatee survival. The largest cattle-raising area in Panama is located between San San and Changuinola rivers. Extensive banana plantations in the same area release drainage water with agrochemicals and pesticides into coastal areas and especially into the upper San San and Changuinola lagoons: The expansion of both industries may result in forest cutting and burning of the watersheds in the area of Changuinola (Mou Sue et al. 1990).
On a smaller scale, motorboat traffic in Rio San San (Mou Sue et al. 1990) represents a threat to the manatee population; to date only one boat-related manatee death was recorded in Lake Gatun (Mou Sue et al. 1990). Additional potential threats include (a) the exploration of the greatest peat deposit in the Caribbean region, located in Humedal de San San, close to the village of Changuinola; (b) the construction of 6 projected dams in the rivers Changuinola and Teribe, which will increase turbidity and divert water flow into Rio San San, ; and (c) alternative projects to the Panama Canal (Mou Sue et al. 1990).
Socio-economic significance of the species to local communities
Archaeological excavations at Cerro Brujo (Aguacate Peninsula) indicate that manatees represented an important source of protein to aborigines between 500 and 900 AD. Later on buccaneers supplied their ships with manatee meat from Bahia Almirante and Bocas del Toro (O'Donnell 1981). Manatee bone statuettes and batons were found in graves in the Central provinces and bone may have been important in Pre-Columbian trade (Lothrop 1937, Ladd 1964).
National legislation and conservation measures
The wildlife law Decreto no. 23 of 1967 extends protection and prohibits hunting of manatee, among other species; resolution no. -DIR-002-80 of 1980 of Ministerio de Desarrollo Agropecuario (Dirección Nacional de Recursos Naturales Renovables RENARE) declares the manatee as an endangered species. However this legislation is ineffective and needs revision (Mou Sue et al. 1990). Gill netting is forbidden in rivers (Mou Sue et al. 1990). Panama is Party to the Convention for the Protection of Flora, Fauna and Scenic Beauties (1972) and to the CITES Convention (1977), and signatory to the SPAW Protocol. Dirección de Áreas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre del Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales Renovables (INRENARE) and Asociación Conservacionista CARIBARO with support from Programas de Humedales de Panama of The World Conservation Union (IUCN), have proposed the San San area as a Ramsar site. Panama is a Party to the Ramsar Convention (Mou Sue et al. 1990).
Fundación de Parques Nacionales y Medio Ambiente (PA.NA.M.A) proposed the establishment of a marine reserve Parque Nacional Boca de los Toros.
During 1988, an educational programme was carried out among the population in the province of Changuinola, especially at high school level (Mou Sue et al. 1990).
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
Top of Page
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