Creatures of the Amazon
The Amazon Manatee

By Mike Collis

This Amazon monster can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 1,100lbs is the cousin of 3 other species of manatee which exist in the World today. The Amazon Manatee is the only freshwater manatee, The other 3 manatees are the West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis), the dugong (Dugong dugon) which live in coastal parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) live around the Carribean Sea stretching from Florida to the northern coast of South America. They are all members of the order Sirenia.

The Amazon Manatee or South American Manatee (Trichechus inunguis) lives in the rivers and swamps of the Amazon region stretching from Guyana in the north to Bolivia in the south. It is difficult to know the exact population of the amazon Manatee because they lie unseen submerged in murky water. It is for certain that their numbers are declining due to hunting and the loss of its habitat.

The Manatee is probably the most unusual of all the Amazon's creatures with it's flattened long tail, it's long front limbs shaped like flippers and its odd shaped nose something like a hippo's snout.

The Amazon Manatee is vegatarian and only eats hyacinth and water lettuce which it consumes in great quantities, eating up to 8% of it's body weight every day. They seem to feed more during the rainy season and store excess fat for leaner times during the dry season. They like to live in groups of up to 8 individuals but sometimes they can be found alone. Pregnancy lasts 13 months and only one calf is usually born. Manatees can live up to 12 years.


The Iquitos Manatee Rescue Center.

The ACOBIA-DWAzoo Amazonian Manatee Rescue Center is located 4.5 klms from Iquitos Airport on the main Iquitos to Nauta highway. The facility is run by IIAP the Research Institute for the Peruvian Amazon. The center welcomes visitors every day and the Visitors Center has a lecture room and shows videos of Manatees displaying the valuable work the center carries out. There are pools with baby manatees up to 2 years old. After this time they are released into the wild. Baby manatees feed exclusively on their mothers milk for about 18 months and then they feed on vegetation which is suplimented by their mothers milk until they are 2 years old and gain independence. . Visitors are invited to bottle feed the youngsters, so it really is a "hands on" experience.

The center is supported by Dallas World Aquarium in the U.S.A. whose help is invaluable but the rescue center still relies on donations to continue its work.
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