UNEP logo Regional Management Plan for the West Indian Manatee, Trichechus manatus

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CEP Technical Report No. 35 1995 All CEP Technical Reports

II. NATIONAL STATUS

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

Trinidad & Tobago

Status and distribution

In the early 1900s, manatees were considered rare in Trinidad (Groome 19..), to the point of being thought extinct by Bacon (1979). Manatees still occur in the Nariva swamp, Trinidad's largest freshwater wetland, where the annual flood of the Orinoco river may affect their distribution. J. A. Bindernagel, a consultant for FAO, conducted a series of interviews with fishermen, and boat and helicopter surveys in 1983 and concluded that the Trinidad manatee population did not exceed 100 animals (Amour 1993 unpubl. report). A 1991 aerial survey over the North Oropouche River/Nariva Swamp areas recorded evidence of 4 manatees and a follow-up boat survey found signs of manatee feeding (Seddon 1992). The Manatee Subcommittee of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist Club, initiated research on the manatee in 1993 and estimated there are approximately 25-30 manatees along the eastern coast of Trinidad. Significant groups are found in Big Pond, a large body of water with easy access, of fishermen and farmers through Manzanilla Road and no connection to the sea, in the north of the Nariva Swamp; and the Nariva River, just south of the pond, an area of difficult land access, connected to the ocean (Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report). Additional areas of sightings include the North Oropouche, Charamel, and Otoire rivers (Amour 1993 unpubl. report, Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report).

Major threats and conservation problems

Long term development plans and their effects on the hydrology and ecology of the area such as drainage of swamps and wetlands (especially the alteration of Nariva Swamp for rice and aquaculture), dam construction (such as the one proposed for the Biche area, west of Nariva Swamp), pesticide runoff and aquatic pollution, felling of mangrove trees, and quarrying, dredging and timber cutting in the North Oropouche threaten manatees in Trinidad (Hislop 1985, Seddon 1992, Amour 1993 unpubl. report, Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report). The construction of ditches for access to the ocean might cause salinization of present freshwater areas. Sluice gate and canal construction in the river systems has resulted in the blocking of some areas to manatee local migrations, and possibly in the isolation of the two populations in the Nariva Swamp (Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report). This could be very detrimental to genetic flow of an already small population.

There have been reports of accidental entanglement of manatees in the North Oropouche river (Hislop 1985) and in the L'Embranche River (North Manzanilla) in 1990 (Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report). Data on poaching are contradictory (Amour 1993 unpubl. report, Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report) but Seddon (1992) reports manatee meat being occasionally available in local markets, although it is unclear if the killing is intentional.

National legislation and conservation measures

The Conservation of Wildlife Act of 1980 encompasses manatees under its jurisdiction by default. The Nariva Swamp habitat is protected under the Fisheries Act of 1975 and declared the Nariva Swamp a Prohibited area under Legal Notice No. 78 of l993 of the Forest Act of l955. However, under the Fisheries Act of l990, manatees could be legally hunted unless the owner of the area objected to it, and enforcement of protective measures is not adequate, due to lack of manpower. The Nariva Swamp, and the Oropouche and Otoire river areas are being proposed to receive National Park status. The Nariva Swamp has been declared a RAMSAR site and the management plan for the area is presently being drafted (Amour 1993 unpubl. report, Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report). Trinidad and Tobago became a Party to the CITES Convention in 1984 and is signatory to the SPAW Protocol.

The Manatee Subcommittee of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club has been involved since 1991 in public education programme to schools and workshops. Funds are being sought to establish a Trinidad and Tobago Conservation Trust Fund for the conservation and management of natural areas and wildlife, including the manatee (Boyle and Khan 1993 unpubl. report).

In 1983, the Wildlife Section of Trinidad's Forestry Division initiated projects to evaluate the status of West Indian manatee and wildlife habitat, in 1990 the project for the development and management of wildlife sanctuaries for the protection of endangered species (including the manatee) in the island nation. The Wildlife Section is encouraging and providing training to community groups interested in ecotourism and conservation (Amour 1993 unpubl. report).



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


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